Chlorine: A Dangerous Addition to Everyday Life

by Alexis Sadoti

March 18, 2010

There’s just no way we can prepare for a chemical disaster. It’s unnerving to say, but airborne chemicals travel faster than we could run or drive out of harms way. That’s why we have to focus on preventing these chemical disasters from occuring in the first place! Let’s tighten up security and keep everyone safe.

I was astounded to find out that a third of Americans are at risk. The Department of Homeland Security has identified over 5,800 “high-risk” chemical plants. An accident or an attack on just 300 of them would put 110 million Americans at risk. There is a good possibility that you are at risk of exposure if an accident were to occur.

 But, what kinds of chemicals are being produced at these plants that are risky? I did some digging and found out that chlorine gas is one of the most dangerous chemicals that environmentalists and legislators are trying to protect us from.

Chlorine is used in the production of thousands of products, from household cleaning supplies, to the disinfecting of water; making it one of the top ten most produced chemicals in the United States. It is a naturally occuring chemical element, one of 100 others that make up basic building blocks of matter. Chlorine’s popular disinfectant properties stem from its unstable manner. It easily bonds with other chemicals to destroy various bacteria (most commonly found in nature as already bonded).

However, when isolated Chlorine becomes incredibly dangerous. At room temperature elemental Chlorine is a yellowish-green gas with a pungent odor similar to that of bleach. For shipment and storage, the gas is usually pressurized and cooled to form an amber liquid. If the chemical were to leak, it would quickly turn into a gas and spread rapidly.

Chlorine is incredibly dangerous, unstable and can react with a variety of other chemicals when released into the environment. An accidental leak or spill can pose serious health risks to those exposed. Low levels of exposure can lead to eye, nose, and throat irritation. However, breathing in high levels of airborne chlorine can lead to fluid build up in the lungs, formally known as Pulmonary Edema. This build up can cause shortness of breath and lead to respiratory failure. If not treated this condition can be fatal. 63 of the 101 most dangerous “high-risk” facilities are chlorine gas plants.

But, on the bright side of all this Clorox recently announced that they would move away from extremely hazardous chlorine gas and start using liquid bleach to add extra layers of security.

This highlights the exciting news that safer alternatives are out there! But, unless Congress passes legislation, not everyone will follow the new safety standards. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to push Congress in the right direction. The House of Representatives passed a comprehensive chemical security bill last year. Whoo hooo! Now, it’s the Senate’s turn. And, the timing couldn’t be more urgent. Please help us get the word out.

Take Action. We need to make sure that the bill coming out of the Senate is just as strong as the one that the House passed. That’s where we need your help! Start a picket! Riot in the streets! Well…maybe those aren’t such good ideas. A simple phone call or letter to your Senators can go a long way. You can make a difference.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.