Chlorine Health Hazard Information

Acute Effects:

  • Chlorine is a potent irritant in humans to the eyes, the upper respiratory tract, and the lungs. Several studies have reported the following effects: 0.014 to 0.054 ppm: tickling of the nose; 0.04 to 0.097 ppm: tickling of the throat; 0.06 to 0.3 ppm; itching of the nose and cough, stinging, or dryness of the nose and throat; 0.35 to 0.72 ppm: burning of the conjunctiva and pain after 15 minutes; above 1.0 ppm: discomfort ranging from ocular and respiratory irritation to coughing, shortness of breath, and headaches.2
  • Higher levels of chlorine have resulted in the following effects in humans: 1 to 3 ppm: mild mucous membrane irritation; 30 ppm: chest pain, vomiting, dypsnea, cough; 46 to 60 ppm: toxic pneumonitis and pulmonary edema; 430 ppm: lethal after 30 minutes; 1,000 ppm: fatal within a few minutes.1
  • Chlorine is extremely irritating to the skin and can cause severe burns.1
  • Acute animal tests, such as the LC50 test in rats and mice, have shown chlorine to have high acute toxicity.3
  • EPA'sOffice of Air Quality Planning and Standards, for a hazard ranking under Section 112(g) of the Clean Air Act Amendments, considers chlorine to be a "high concern" pollutant based on severe acute toxicity.4

Chronic Effects (Noncancer):

  • Several studies in the older literature reported that chronic exposure to chlorine concentrations of around 5 ppm caused respiratory complaints, corrosion of the teeth, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, and increased susceptibility to tuberculosis in workers.5
  • Animal studies have reported decreased body weight gain, eye and nose irritation, and effects on the respiratory tract, liver, and kidney from chronic inhalation exposure to chlorine.2
  • Other studies have indicated that exposure to chlorine, via inhalation, may alter disease resistance in animals, with higher incidences of emphysema, pneumonia, and tuberculosis reported.2


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB, online database). National Toxicology Information Program, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD. 1993.
  2. E.J. Calabrese and E.M. Kenyon. Air Toxics and Risk Assessment. Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, MI. 1991.
  3. R.D. Morris, A. Audet, I.F. Angelillo, T. C. Chalmers, and F. Mosteller. Chlorination, Chlorination by-products, and cancer: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 82(7):955-977. 1992.
  4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Chlorine. EPA 440/5-84-030. Office of Water Regulations and Standards, Washington, DC. 1985.
  5. American Council of Government of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values. Fourth Edition. Cincinnati, OH. 1986.

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