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Chlorine is one of the most useful chemical elements used in manufacturing because chlorine is a very reactive element - so reactive, in fact, it is typically found combined with other elements in the form of compounds. But in your cola?
Chlorine is commonly found in nature, but almost always in combination with other natural building block elements. Chlorine's structure makes it very reactive because its Atomic outer shell is missing one electron, which makes it attractive to other atoms and molecules. Because it is so reactive, it is very useful to chemists, engineers and other people involved in making things we use every day. It has been exploited by manufacturers and is used in thousands of products, including such diverse items as cars, computers, pharmaceuticals, and military flak jackets. Chlorine is the ninth most copious chemical produced in the United States by volume.
When combined with other chemical building blocks, chlorine can change the nature of a substance, and build or improve a product. This is why chlorine was selected to be the substitute "atom" for the sucrose molecule in which to make Splenda.
But, should we EAT chlorine or simply use it for manufactured goods?
The most common industrial use of chlorine is the manufacture of a versatile plastic known as polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is a polymer, meaning on a microscopic level many small units of the same types of atoms are bound together to form long chains, similar to the linking of multiple paper clips. PVC pipes resist the pitting and corrosion common in metal pipes that often develop a slimy build-up of disease-causing microbes known as "biofilm." Elevated levels of chlorine disinfectant can destroy biofilms.
When combined with other chemical building blocks, chlorine can change the nature of a substance, and create a new product. To be used in manufacturing, chlorine must first be separated from the other elements with which it is combined. Manufacturers use a process known as "electrolysis," which breaks down salt water into basic components, including chlorine. Since opposite charges attract, the negative chloride ions collect at the positive poles and form molecular chlorine gas. The gas is dried, chilled and pressurized, or converted to liquid for storage and shipping.
Every time you drink a glass of water, read a newspaper, put on a vinyl raincoat, brush your teeth, drink a diet cola with Splenda, or drive your car, you are using chlorine in some form.
Hospitals to swimming pools use chlorine-based compounds such as bleach for disinfections. About 85 percent of the top-selling medicines are manufactured using chlorine chemistry. Chlorine also is used to manufacture flexible plastics such as vinyl (polyvinyl chloride). Crop-protection chemicals are based on chlorine, and chlorine helps ensure that products like disposable diapers and paper towels are strong and absorbent. And don't forget, chlorine is now found in hundreds of food products, including children's foods.
Chlorine vapors can irritate your lungs and pose a serious risk to people who suffer from asthma and other lung problems. Breathing the fumes of cleaners containing a high concentration of chlorine can irritate the lungs. This is especially true for people suffering from heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema. The risks are compounded when cleaners are used in small, poorly ventilated rooms. Cancer-causing chemicals like chlorine found in many household products are readily absorbed through the skin.
Chlorine is also a highly corrosive substance capable of damaging the skin, eyes, and other delicate membranes. Remember how your eyes burn after swimming in a highly chlorinated pool of water?
Pregnant women in their first trimester who drink five or more glasses of chlorinated tap water a day may be at a much higher risk of miscarriage than women who drink non-chlorinated water.
Just because a chlorine molecule is attached to one thing doesn't make it the same as something else containing chlorine. For example, consider the following four salts. They all contain chlorine, but they are not alike. Each contains a different set of building blocks and offers unique characteristics.
1. Iron (ferric) chloride (FeCl3): Used to make pigments, inks and dyes, in controlling odors and removing phosphates from municipal waste water, in photographic processes, and as medicine.
2. Calcium chloride (CaCl2): Used, when in a water solution, as antifreeze and refrigerating solutions, for the preservation of wood and stone, in the manufacturing of glues, cements and fireproof fabrics, and to speed-up the setting of concrete.
3. Sodium chloride (NaCl): Used in ceramic glazes, soap manufacturing, fire extinguishing solutions, and -- table salt.
4. Cupric chloride (CuCl2): Used in wood preservation, in the fabric dyeing process, and, when mixed with other copper salts, as an agricultural fungicide.
Posted July 2004 | Permanent Link
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