Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2011 10:58:41 -0400
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From: "David C. Finster" <dfinster**At_Symbol_Here**MAIL.WITTENBERG.EDU>
Subject: Re: Chemical Safety Headlines From Google (9 articles) -
"Chlorine" spills
In-Reply-To: <73025A99-5A13-42B0-806F-25CC773889D4**At_Symbol_Here**>


I have excerpted below two of the articles recently sent that describe "chlorine" spills.  I am writing to the group just to confirm what I believe to be one of the most common errors in the report of hazmat incidents.  If someone understands the chemistry involved better than I, please correct me.

It is commonly reported that mixing ammonia and bleach releases chlorine gas.  I cannot find any reliable source of chemical information that confirms this reaction (although a web search of "ammonia plus bleach" will often produce websites claiming the production of Cl2).  My understanding is that the substance produced (first) is a chloramine (NH2Cl) which, in fact, is the source of the odor commonly experienced at swimming pools as the "chlorine smell".  The dichloro- and trichloro- species are also produced.   TOXNET (HSDB) reports that chloramine is a lacrimator and respiratory irritant, including a few case studies of death from mixing bleach and ammonia in bathrooms.   I could find no "typical" toxicity information such as LC50 or IDLH values.

Note:  Mixing bleach with HCl will produce Cl2.

Note:  Mixing bleach with phosphoric acid is reported to produce chlorine gas.  (  (It is unclear to me what the reducing agent is in this reaction.)

From an emergency responder point of view, the actions taken would be the same whether it is chloramine or chlorine.

Readers of this listserve are aware of the "loose"  ( = incorrect!) of chemical language by the media and public on many occasions such as the term "chlorine" for everything from chloride, to Cl2, to bleach, to perchlorate.  Referring to chloramine as "chlorine"  seems like a chemical error instead of a linguistic one.


David C. Finster
Professor of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Chemistry
Wittenberg University

Tags: us_NJ, public, release, injury, chlorine

Police are not pursuing criminal charges against the woman who sparked a contamination scare by mixing ammonia and bleach in a Westfield park on Thursday, Westfield police captain David Wayman said. The chemicals, which, when combined, release a toxic chlorine gas, sent the woman to the hospital with reported breathing issues, injured a police officer and sparked a temporary quarantine of the park. Police have declined to release the name of the woman, but describe her as a Westfield resident in her early 20s.

"We’re still interviewing her," Wayman said Tuesday morning. "At this time it does not appear to be criminal in nature." He added that police have not determined whether the woman was attempting to commit suicide.

At 10:33 a.m. on Thursday, the woman called police from Brightwood Park, which borders Scotch Plains, to report that she was struggling to breathe. When two officers responded to the park, they found that the woman had fallen unconscious. Nearby, they also discovered a structure made of tarp and other materials that contained the chemicals, which the woman had apparently attempted to mix in a bucket, Wayman said.


Tags: Canada, public, release, injury, chlorine

A Boys and Girls Club in Ottawa's west end has reopened after a pool maintenance worker was sent to hospital after exposure to chlorine gas Tuesday morning.

The worker mistakenly mixed hydrochloric acid — used as a cleaner — with another chemical, creating chlorine gas, according to Marc Messier, a spokesman with Ottawa Fire Services.

A hazardous materials team was sent to the club at 2825 DuMaurier Ave. around 6:15 and ventilated the building.

The worker was overcome by the fumes and treated on the scene by paramedics who said he had a serious inhalation injury. The 57-year-old man was taken to hospital but is expected to recover.


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