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Fact Sheet for Chlorine

September 2011

PDF Version

This fact sheet answers questions about chlorine. For more information, call Oregon Hazardous Substance Incident Surveillance (HSIS) at 971-673-0977.

It is important to understand this information because chlorine is a potentially dangerous substance. The harmful effects of this substance depend on several factors: your age, the amount and length of time of exposure, the exposure (you breathed it in or it got on your skin) and whether or not other chemicals are present.1

What is chlorine?

Chlorine is a yellow-green gas with a strong odor. It can be a liquid under pressure or at very cold temperatures (below -29°F).

Where is chlorine found?

Chlorine is used as a bleach and disinfectant in water purification and sewage treatment. It is also used in making many other products.   

How might I be exposed?

  • Breathing contaminated air or coming into contact with chlorine from a spill or release incident
  • Breathing contaminated air from mixing bleach with household chemicals such as toilet cleaner or products containing ammonia
  • Improperly handling swimming pool chemicals
  • Working in industry where the chlorine is used

What will chlorine do to me?

Inhaling chlorine can irritate the lungs. Higher exposure can cause fluid build-up in the lungs, which is a medical emergency. Contact with liquid chlorine can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes. Pure chlorine liquid can cause frostbite. Exposure can irritate the nose and throat. It can also cause headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Repeated exposure can cause permanent lung damage.

Children may be more vulnerable to chlorine.1

How can I protect myself?

In the event of a spill or release, follow instructions given by emergency responders and local authorities (i.e. shelter in place, evacuation, etc.). Keep products out of reach of children and in original packaging. If you have a pool, follow precautions and instructions for handling pool chemicals (i.e. avoid breathing fumes and store chemicals in cool, dry place).


In case of an emergency, contact your regional poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 emergency services for help.

First Aid

Note: effects of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact) to chlorine may be delayed.2

Inhalation: move to fresh air. Begin rescue breathing (using proper respiratory medical device) if breathing has stopped and CPR if heart has stopped. Get medical attention right away.

Skin contact: remove contaminated clothing. If clothing is frozen to skin, thaw first before removing. Rinse area for at least 30 minutes. Wash skin with soap and water. Get medical attention right away.

Eye contact: remove excess chemical from face. Rinse the whites of eyes with water for at least 30 minutes, lifting upper and lower lids. If possible, remove contact lenses while rinsing. Get medical attention right away.

Ingestion: do not make person vomit.3 Call Oregon Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 or seek medical attention immediately.

Where can I find more information?

Oregon Hazardous Substances Incident Surveillance program

Other sources of information include:

  • Local health department
  • Oregon Poison Center: Phone 1-800-222-1222
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ToxFAQs™ for Chlorine (English and Spanish)
  • New Jersey Department of Health, Right to Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets for Chlorine (English and Spanish)
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Emergency Response Guide Book (English and Spanish)  

 This document was supported by funds from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) trust fund provided to the Oregon Health Authority under Cooperative Agreement #5U61/TS000130-02 from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

1Medical Management Guidelines for Chlorine, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry

2Emergency Response Guide Book, U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

3Oregon Poison Center, 2011