Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Chlorine Bad For You?

Also Known As: Cl (periodic table)



Short answer

Chlorine can be dangerous, but whether or not amounts present in pools are a health threat is still unknown. It should be noted, however, that children can absorb in more chlorine than adults exposed to the same amount.



Long answer

For the purpose of brevity, this article will be concerned with chlorine as it is used as a disinfectant. Not all compounds containing chlorine, such as table salt (sodium chloride), will be considered. Chlorine is found primarily as a liquid or gas (it is a gas at room temperature) - in fact, it was the first poison gas to be weaponized during World War I. Nowadays, commercially available chlorine is made by electrolysis applied to brine. It is found in several products, but most well-known (especially for causing the distinctive smell) is household bleach and a freshly-cleaned swimming pool. 

Chlorine is very effective at killing microbes. However, it does come with some risks. According to one specific study, chlorine exposure causes a rise in blood markers associated with cancer. While this does not mean that there is an increased risk of cancer, it does mean that more research needs to be conducted to find out just how safe (or dangerous) chlorine used in swimming pools is. Other studies have shown higher rates of asthma in lifeguards and competitive swimmers as well as higher rates of eyes, nose, and throat irritation in pool cleaners. 

Mild symptoms related to chlorine poisoning include blurry vision, wheezing, and redness on the skin. More serious symptoms are burning pain, blisters, and pulmonary edema.

While not usually fatal, chlorine poisoning has no antidote and the effects can only be treated, but not reversed. Various symptoms call for various methods of treatment. While ingestion of chlorine gas is unlikely to cause anything severe, when mixed with water (such as in bleach or swimming pools), chlorine can become more dangerous - especially when swallowed. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • irritation to soft tissue
  • blurry vision
  • blisters
  • wheezing
  • pulmonary edema

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer
  • asthma

Big is chlorine bad for you 2


  • kills microbes that inhabit pools

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Written by Jeff Volling | 01-07-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
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