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Chlorine Dioxide: The Secret Disinfectant

Chlorine Dioxide: The Secret Disinfectant

Chlorine dioxide proves able to put up a fight against viruses, among other pathogens.

Hakeem Jones

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Everyone knows about hand sanitizer and plenty hand soap to keep the germs and viruses at bay, but have you heard of chlorine dioxide? Yes, it is a chemical, but it’s one of the good guys. It’s yellowish- green colour may deceive you, despite it being one of the best disinfectants around.

Chlorine dioxide was used for the first time in 1944, since its discovery by Sir Humphrey Davy. Its usage at a water treatment plant in Niagara Falls, New York, solved taste and odor issues in the water. The compound was chosen as it is much more soluble in water, and does not produce carcinogenic byproducts from the impurities it is meant to destroy.

Chlorine Dioxide was also used as a disinfectant in the Anthrax attacks of 2001, and to eradicate mold and mildew from homes flooded in hurricane Katrina five years later. The effectiveness of the compound in both major incidents proved it’s efficiency and that it is safe for public use.

Among its uses are sterilization of medical equipment, odor and taste control of water, disinfection and sterilization of water, an oxidizer and is also present in some portable handheld disinfectants such as the Dr. Clo stick.

In a study performed at Seoul National University, chlorine dioxide was tested against Influenza A H1N1 and SARS Coronavirus-2, better known as Covid-19. The study showed that even after 2 hours of exposure, the compound was still able to actively kill the viruses.

Similar to carbon and carbon dioxide, chlorine dioxide is very different from chlorine in terms of chemical structure and behavior. Confusion between the two led to myths claiming that chlorine dioxide depletes the ozone layer like chlorine gas does.

A study performed by Egyptian pharmacologist Professor Abdel-Rahman showed showed that chlorine dioxide breaks down through oxidization processes that occur in our saliva and stomach contents. In the presence of sunlight, it breaks down through natural processes that occur in the environment.

In present times, use of chlorine dioxide has grown rapidly in the food processing industry. It is used as a fumigant to extend the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables which develop mold and yeast. It is also used to disinfect poultry by spraying or immersing, prior to processing.

If you still think you have not been using it, you might find your favorite non-alcohol based mouthwash and toothpaste contain chlorine dioxide. Even with the world at our fingertips, thanks to the internet, it is hard to believe such misconceptions and myths still exist.

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