Chlorine – Used in more ways than you could imagine

Nov 24, 2022

Chlorine in Daily Life

When you put on your running shoes, swing your tennis racquet, bounce a basketball or put on your helmet to ride your mountain bike, you are using products made from chlorine-based compounds, even the isotonic drink you use to recharge after exercise, the vinyl record you listen to when relaxing, and the smartphone you speak to your loved ones on, all use PVC or similar chlorine compounds.

Chlorine – History and Origins

For many of us, Chlorine is a just chemical we use in our pools to keep them sparkling clean. Few of us, however, realise how many times we interact with chlorine-based products every single day. First discovered in 1774 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, a Swiss-German Scientist, chlorine has had a greater impact on the advancement of humanity than just about any other element or chemical compound.

Scheele isolated chlorine by reacting hydrochloric acid with manganese oxide, a hazardous process indeed. Chlorine does, however, existed naturally in combination with other elements in the form of Organochlorines. These naturally occurring compounds can be found in ocean algae and plankton, in the soil after forest fires, and in fungal activity. Chlorine is released naturally by volcanoes and by the natural weathering of chlorine-containing rocks. These chlorine-compounds are the used by soil microbes, worms, and plants as vital organic building blocks.

Natural organochlorines have some surprising properties. They are used in traditional Chinese medicine, a species of Ecuadorian tree-frog produces chlorinated alkaloids that have pain-killing properties that far exceed morphine, and compounds found in some species of kelp and sea algae exhibit powerful anticancer and antibacterial properties.

I think here we need to call out how important chlorine and the safe use / certified production plants are paramount.

Chlorine in Agriculture

  • Chlorine chemistry is critical to optimising growing conditions
  • It’s the key element in PVC Poly tunnels that are used to grow plants and produce more sustainably and with higher yields
  • Used in crop protection chemicals to enrich and protect growing produce and is in the packaging that keeps the produce fresh, healthy, and safe for consumption

Health and Wellbeing

Chlorine is critical to our wellbeing at the most fundamental level. It gives us clean water. Chlorine is the only chemical that keeps water safe from source to tap to glass. It eradicates most harmful biological agents, removing odours, and keeps alkalinity levels within acceptable parameters.

Medicine and Medical Sector

Around 85% of all medical products rely on chlorine-based chemicals. They are used in the synthesis of many modern medicines, including those that are most important to our wellbeing. Chlorine based solvents are used in the production of antibiotics, asthma treatments and cholesterol management medication. Additionally, chorine is used in the packaging of these treatments.

From a threat-prevention perspective, antibacterial cleaning products such as bleach prevent germs and infections from threatening our health in hospitals, workspaces, and our own homes. Chlorine is also used in PVC-based safety products such as life rafts and vests, in brakes and tyres, and even space suits use materials manufactured with chlorine compounds.

Driving Long-term Carbon Neutrality

In the modern world where the managed consumption of fossil fuels is ever more important, chlorine is a key element in aiding us to achieve carbon neutrality. It is part of the compound used in insulation systems in “greener” temperature efficient building construction. It is used in the manufacture of the photo-voltaic cells in solar panels, wind turbines and even low-energy consumption LED lights.

Chlorine Production: From 250 Years Ago to Today

We have come a long way since chlorine was first isolated almost 250 years ago. Today, chlorine is produced, primarily, by using salt water and electricity. The chlor-alkali process involves using electrolysis to sperate chlorine from salt dissolved in water. Along with chlorine, this process also results in the production of two other useful products, caustic soda and hydrogen.

The manufacturing process may be much safer today but chlorine is still a highly reactive element. Safety is a critical consideration in the manufacture process and that”s why a group of companies across Europe came together in 1989. Their mission? To advance the safety of chlor-alkali production. Now internationally known as Euro Chlor, the group”s ongoing mandate is to provide science-based information on the manufacture of chlorine. This includes defining safety measures and certifications to ensure these standards are implemented and maintained.

Safe Manufacture is a Non-negotiable

Critical to the safe manufacture of chlorine-based compounds, liquid and gas alike, are various categories of valves. To ensure the valves used in these applications are safe, they must be GEST 17/492 Eurochlor certified. In South Africa, Allied Valve Specialists (AVS) offer products from leading global suppliers such as Hunt and Mitton to the local chlor-alkali industry. To reduce any environmental or health risks arising from issues such as accidental leakage, AVS ensures that they offer only safety certified products from strategic partners like Hunt and Mitton.

So, the next time you open a bottle of water, switch on an LED light, or give your child an antibiotic to treat an illness, enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the chlorine used in those products was manufactured with safety, environmental care and energy efficiency as the most important considerations.