Chlorination is the process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water. Water which has been treated with chlorine is effective in preventing the spread of waterborne disease.

The chlorination of public drinking supplies was originally met with resistance, as people were concerned about the health effects of the practice. The use of chlorine has greatly reduced the prevalence of waterborne disease as it is effective against almost all bacteria and viruses, as well as amoeba.

Chlorination is also used to sanitize the water in swimming pools and as a disinfection stage in sewage treatment.

Shock chlorination is a process used in many swimming pools, water wells, springs, and other water sources to reduce the bacterial and algal residue in the water. Shock chlorination is performed by mixing a large amount of sodium hypochlorite, which can be in the form of a powder or a liquid such as chlorine bleach, into the water. Water that is being shock chlorinated should not be swum in or drunk until the sodium hypochlorite count in the water goes down to three ppm or less.



The first scientists to suggest disinfecting water with chlorine were Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau (in France) and William Cumberland Cruikshank (in England), both around the year 1800.[1]

The technique of purification of drinking water by use of compressed liquefied chlorine gas was developed in 1910 by U.S. Army Major (later Brig. Gen.) Carl Rogers Darnall (1867–1941), Professor of Chemistry at the Army Medical School.[2] Shortly thereafter, Major (later Col.) William J. L. Lyster (1869–1947) of the Army Medical Department used a solution of calcium hypochlorite in a linen bag to treat water.

For many decades, Lyster's method remained the standard for U.S. ground forces in the field and in camps, implemented in the form of the familiar Lyster Bag (also spelled Lister Bag). Darnall's work became the basis for present day systems of chlorination of municipal water supplies, which were perfected in the 1930s and widely established in the United States by World War II.[3]

Chemistry in water

When chlorine is added to water, it reacts to form a pH dependent equilibrium mixture of chlorine, hypochlorous acid and hydrochloric acid[4] :

Cl2 + H2O → HOCl + HCl

Depending on the pH, hypochlorous acid partly dissociates to hydrogen and hypochlorite ions:

HOCl → H+ + ClO-

In acidic solution, the major species are Cl2 and HOCl while in alkaline solution effectively only ClO- is present. Very small concentrations of ClO2-, ClO3-, ClO4- are also found.[5]


Disinfection by chlorination can be problematic, in some circumstances. Chlorine can react with naturally occurring organic compounds found in the water supply to produce compounds known as disinfection byproducts (DBPs). The most common DBPs are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Due to the potential carcinogenicity of these compounds, drinking water regulations across the developed world require regular monitoring of the concentration of these compounds in the distribution systems of municipal water systems. The World Health Organization has stated that the "Risks to health from DBPs are extremely small in comparison with inadequate disinfection."

There are also other concerns regarding chlorine, including its volatile nature which causes it to disappear too quickly from the water system, and aesthetic concerns such as taste and odour.


Chlorine in water is more than three times more effective as a disinfectant against Escherichia coli than an equivalent concentration of bromine, and is more than six times more effective than an equivalent concentration of iodine.[6]

Several alternatives to traditional chlorination exist, and have been put into practice to varying extents. Ozonation is used by many European countries and also in a few municipalities in the United States. Due to current regulations, systems employing ozonation in the United States still must maintain chlorine residuals comparable to systems without ozonation.

Disinfection with chloramine is also becoming increasingly common. Unlike chlorine, chloramine has a longer half life in the distribution system and still maintains effective protection against pathogens. The reason chloramines persist in the distribution is due to the relatively lower redox potential in comparison to free chlorine. Chloramine is formed by the addition of ammonia into drinking water to form mono-, di-, and trichloramines. Whereas Helicobacter pylori can be many times more resistant to chlorine than Escherichia coli, both organisms are about equally susceptible to the disinfecting effect of chloramine.[7]

Water treated by filtration may not need further disinfection; a very high proportion of pathogens are removed by materials in the filter bed. Filtered water must be used soon after it is filtered, as the low amount of remaining microbes may proliferate over time.

The advantage of chlorine in comparison to ozone is that the residual persists in the water for an extended period of time. This feature allows the chlorine to travel through the water supply system, effectively controlling pathogenic backflow contamination. In a large system this may not be adequate, and so chlorine levels may be boosted at points in the distribution system, or chloramine may be used, which remains in the water for longer before reacting or dissipating.

Another method which is gaining popularity is UV disinfection. UV treatment leaves no residue in the water due to use of light instead of chemical disinfectants. However, this method alone (as well as chlorination alone) will not remove bacterially produced toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, etc. from water. Often, multiple steps are taken in commercially sold water.

See also


  1. ^ Rideal, Samuel (1895). Disinfection and Disinfectants, p. 57. J.B. Lippincott Co.
  2. ^ Darnall C.R. (1911), "The Purification of Water by Anhydrous Chlorine", American Journal of Public Health; 1: 783–97.
  3. ^ Hodges, L. (1977). Environmental Pollution (2nd ed.). New York: Rinehart and Winston. p. 189. 
  4. ^ Fair, G. M., J. Corris, S. L. Chang, I. Weil, and R. P. Burden. 1948. The behavior of chlorine as a water disinfectant. J. Am. Water Works Assoc. 40:1051-1061.
  5. ^ .Shunji Nakagawara, Takeshi Goto, Masayuki Nara, Youichi Ozaqa, Kunimoto Hotta and Yoji Arata, "Spectroscopic Characterization and the pH Dependence of Bactericidal Activity of the Aqueous Chlorine Solution", Analytical Sciences, 14, 69, 1998.
  6. ^ Koski TA, Stuart LS, Ortenzio LF (1 March 1966). "Comparison of Chlorine, Bromine, and Iodine as Disinfectants for Swimming Pool Water". Applied Microbiology 14 (2): 276–279. PMC 546668. PMID 4959984. 
  7. ^ Baker KH, Hegarty JP, Redmond B, Reed NA, Herson DS (2002). "Effect of Oxidizing Disinfectants (Chlorine, Monochloramine, and Ozone) on Helicobacter pylori" (PDF). Applied and Environmental Microbiology 68 (2): 981–984. doi:10.1128/AEM.68.2.981-984.2002. PMC 126689. PMID 11823249. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chlorination — Chlo ri*na tion, n. The act or process of subjecting anything to the action of chlorine; especially, a process for the extraction of gold by exposure of the auriferous material to chlorine gas. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chlorination — chloravimas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Veikimas chloru. atitikmenys: angl. chloridization; chlorination rus. хлорирование …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • chlorination — chlorinimas statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Chloro įjungimas į molekulę. atitikmenys: angl. chloridization; chlorination rus. хлорирование …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • chlorination — chloravimas statusas T sritis ekologija ir aplinkotyra apibrėžtis Leidimas į vandenį dujinio chloro arba jo junginių, iš kurių susidaro hipochloritinės rūgšties arba hipochlorito jonai, reikalingi bakterijų, augalų ir gyvūnų augimui sustabdyti,… …   Ekologijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • chlorination — chlorinate ► VERB ▪ impregnate or treat with chlorine. DERIVATIVES chlorination noun …   English terms dictionary

  • chlorination — noun see chlorinate …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • chlorination — See chlorinate. * * * …   Universalium

  • chlorination — noun The act or process of chlorinating something; especially, the addition of chlorine to water to purify it, and a process for the extraction of gold by exposure of the auriferous material to chlorine gas …   Wiktionary

  • chlorination — n. the addition of noninjurious traces of chlorine (often one part per million) to water supplies before human consumption to ensure that disease causing organisms are destroyed. See also fluoridation …   Medical dictionary

  • chlorination — Смотри Хлорирование …   Энциклопедический словарь по металлургии

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