Chlorine is used in several heavy industrial applications and a number of regular household consumer products. People are most typically exposed to chlorine in acute, small doses around swimming pools or household products, or workers in certain industries may be occupationally exposed in pesticide plants, rail accidents, spills, or other dangerous work-related circumstances.
In recent years, work accidents have caused serious injuries when chlorine was leaked or spilled, and when other industrial chemicals were improperly mixed. Janitors, maintenance crews and housekeepers have been exposed on smaller scales when they unknowingly mix household chemicals with bleach or swimming pool disinfectants.
Chlorine is sometimes stored in tanks in a gas form, which can be pressurized and cooled and changed into a liquid to be shipped and stored. When liquid chlorine is released, it quickly turns into a gas that may spread rapidly.
Acute chlorine exposure can result in serious injuries and long-term complications.
Severely affected individuals may suffer acute lung injury (ALI) or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Up to one percent of exposed individuals die. Some symptoms of related acute airway obstruction include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, nausea and vomiting.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati, Ohio Toxic Tort Lawyer and Workplace Injury Attorney, representing plaintiffs nationwide in chlorine exposure injury cases and a wide variety of civil litigation claims.
Chlorine Exposure Injury
Chlorine is one of the most commonly manufactured chemicals in the United States, used in bleach and cleaning agents, in the manufacture of paper products, and used to make pesticides, rubber, and solvents. Chlorine is used in drinking water and swimming pools to kill bacteria, and also used in industrial waste and sewage plants.
Chlorine gas can be recognized by a pungent, irritating odor, like the odor of bleach. The strong smell may provide a warning to people that they are exposed. The risk of exposure depends on proximity to a specific chlorine release. Household chlorine bleach can release chlorine gas if it is mixed with certain other cleaning agents. If chlorine gas is released, people may be exposed through inhalation, skin contact or eye contact.
Symptoms of Chlorine Exposure Injury
The severity of poisoning caused by chlorine depends on the amount of chlorine a person is exposed to, how the person was exposed, and duration of exposure. If chlorine gas makes contact with moist tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs, damage to these tissues is likely.
Chlorine exposure injury can include pulmonary edema, skin damage, and central nervous system disturbances. Immediate signs and symptoms of chlorine exposure may include:
- Blurred vision
- Watery eyes
- Burning, redness, and blisters on skin
- Burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes
- Chest tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Fluid in the lungs
Workplace Chlorine Exposure Injury
In cases of chlorine spills or leaks, leave the area where the chlorine was released. If the chlorine release is indoors, leave the building. If the chlorine release is outdoors, move to the highest ground possible, as chlorine gas will sink to low-lying areas.
If you may have been exposed, remove your clothing, wash your entire body with soap and water, and seek medical care. Clothing with liquid chlorine on it should be cut from the body instead of pulled over the head. When helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas.
If your eyes are burning or your vision is blurred, rinse the eyes with water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them before rinsing your eyes. Do not put the contacts back in your eyes. If you have ingested chlorine, do not induce vomiting or drink fluids. Seek medical attention right away. Treatment consists of removing the chlorine from the body as soon as possible and providing breathing treatment measures.