What is chlorine used for?


Quick Answer

Chlorine is primarily used as an antiseptic to clean swimming pools and improve drinking water. Additionally, it is used in the production of paper products, plastics, textiles, paint, insecticides and medicine. Many kinds of bleach and disinfectants contain chlorine, and it is used in the extraction of bromine.

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Full Answer

As of 2014, nearly 98 percent of public water around the world is treated with chlorine. It has had a large impact on reducing the number of diseases that spread through untreated water. Typhoid fever once killed 25,000 people each year, but as chlorine is used to treat most water sources, that number has drastically declined to an average of only one death a year.

Chlorine can be combined with nearly every other element. Well-known chlorine compounds include sodium chloride (table salt) and hydrogen chloride. Chlorine is used in the production of several other compounds that are used regularly by both scientists in laboratories and average citizens on a day-to-day basis. Some of these compounds include chloroform, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride and chlorine dioxide.

Chlorine poses a danger when not handled properly. It has a strong smell that can oppress the lungs, and its liquid form can burn skin. In World War I, the German army and Western allies used it as a weapon, though it proved not as useful as both sides had hoped.

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