Chlorine Dioxide | Use, Benefits, and Chemical Safety Facts

Chlorine Dioxide

Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) is a chemical compound consisting of one chlorine atom and two oxygen atoms. It is a reddish to yellowish-green gas at room temperature that dissolves in water. It is used for a variety of antimicrobial uses, including the disinfection of drinking water.

Uses & Benefits

Powerful Disinfection in Water Treatment

Chlorine dioxide is a disinfectant. When added to drinking water, it helps destroy bacteria, viruses and some types of parasites that can make people sick, such as Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia.

Personal Care Products

Personal hygiene applications for chlorine dioxide include mouthwash, toothpaste and contact lens cleaners. Chlorine dioxide is used in dentistry as an oxidizing biocide compound to treat bad breath.

Industrial/Manufacturing Uses

Chlorine dioxide chemistry is used in a wide variety of industrial, oil and gas, food and municipal applications:

Food and Beverage Production
Chlorine dioxide can be used as an antimicrobial agent in water used in poultry processing and to wash fruits and vegetables.

Medical Applications
In hospitals and other healthcare environments, chlorine dioxide gas helps to sterilize medical and laboratory equipment, surfaces, rooms and tools. Researchers have found that at appropriate concentrations, chlorine dioxide is both “safe and effective” at helping to eliminate Legionella bacteria in hospital environments, as well as Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially deadly type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacteria.

Other Industrial Uses
Chlorine dioxide used in oil and gas disinfection applications can help increase well performance and also combat oil souring and protect other fluids from spoilage. Chlorine dioxide is used in the electronics industry to clean circuit boards and as a bleach in the paper and textile manufacturing processes.

Safety Information

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlorine dioxide is added to drinking water to protect people from waterborne pathogens. Chlorine dioxide is used to disinfect drinking water around the world and is approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and included in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has approved the use of chlorine dioxide in certain food applications as well as in over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

In its pure form, chlorine dioxide is a hazardous gas but most people are “not likely” to breathe air containing dangerous levels of chlorine dioxide as it does not occur naturally in the environment. For workers who use chlorine dioxide, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) regulates the level of chlorine dioxide in workplace air for safety. OSHA has set a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for chlorine dioxide at 0.1 parts per million (ppm), or 0.3 milligrams (mg) per cubic meters (m3) for workers using chlorine dioxide for general industrial purposes. OSHA also has a PEL for chlorine dioxide for the construction industry. Chlorine dioxide is always made at the location where it is used.

Answering Questions

How is chlorine dioxide used in water treatment?

According to EPA, chlorine dioxide is used “in public water-treatment facilities, to make water safe for drinking.” When chlorine dioxide is added to drinking water, it helps destroy bacteria, viruses and some types of parasites that can make people sick, such as Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia.

Why is chlorine dioxide in my toothpaste or mouth wash?

Chlorine dioxide is an ingredient in many personal care items because it can kill bacteria without using alcohol. Chlorine dioxide can also be used to treat conditions like bad breath (or halitosis). Chlorine dioxide is approved by the FDA as an antimicrobial agent.

Does chlorine dioxide remove odor?

In water, chlorine dioxide is used to remove unpleasant tastes and odors, as well as to kill algae and bacteria that produce some bad tastes and odors. It is also used in some personal hygiene products. For example, chlorine dioxide can be used in mouthwashes and dentistry products as an oxidizing biocide compound to treat bad breath.

Is chlorine dioxide in mouthwash safe?

Chlorine dioxide has been used as a disinfectant since the early 1900s and has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for many applications, including mouthwash.