Chlorine dioxide, a compound that’s most commonly found in disinfectants and industrial bleach, has a vastly different chemical composition than regular chlorine. This is despite having chlorine in its name.
Due to its potency, chlorine dioxide is an extremely effective disinfectant even when used in low concentrations.
However, what’s the history behind this powerful chemical compound? When was it discovered and how was it discovered?
With that said, here we will be discussing the history behind this unique and potent chemical compound and how it is currently used in the modern era.
The Discovery of Chlorine Dioxide
Chlorine dioxide was first discovered in 1814 by the chemist and inventor, Sir Humphrey Davy, during one of his experiments.
He was able to produce the gas that we know call chlorine dioxide when he poured some sulfuric acid on the chemical compound potassium chlorate (KClO3). After this, he replaced the sulfuric acid (H2SO4) with another chemical, namely hypochlorous acid (HOCl).
This has then been subsequently used to produce massive amounts of the chemical compound, utilizing it as a potent disinfectant and antimicrobial agent.
First Use of Chlorine Dioxide for Water Treatment
The first known use of chlorine dioxide for treating drinkable water was in 1944 wherein it was used to resolve issues with the potable water in New York.
It was added in the water as a way to rid it of phenols, therefore, removing the taste and odor present in the water and making it safe for consumption.
Use of Chlorine Dioxide in Europe
In 1956, the Belgian capital city of Brussels began its switch to the use of chlorine dioxide to disinfect their potable water, moving from the regular compound chlorine. While this is not the first time chlorine dioxide has been used for water treatment, this is the first large-scale use of the chemical for treating drinking water.
Regulation of the Chemical by the EPA
To regulate the use of the chemical, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, registered chlorine dioxide as a sanitizer and disinfectant back in 1967. It highlighted the various uses of the chemical compound such as for food processing, water treatment, odor control, medical waste treatment, and more.
Subsequent Uses of Chlorine Dioxide
With the registration of the EPA of chlorine dioxide as a disinfectant and an alternative to regular chlorine, this has resulted in hundreds of cities using the chemical compound to treat their drinking water systems.
This switch was experienced throughout the United States and even Europe. The conversion from chlorine to chlorine dioxide stemmed from the safer and more environmentally friendly properties of the latter over the former.
The use of chlorine dioxide eventually grew beyond water treatment and has since been used for various applications as well such as paper processing, industrial waste processing, and even medical equipment sterilization.
As such, chlorine dioxide has become one of the most effective yet safe chemical compounds for disinfecting and sterilizing items and environments. Its potency yet environmentally friendly profile made it one of the most used chemicals in various industries worldwide.
The discovery of the chemical compound chlorine dioxide has become one of the most significant discoveries in history. Its more environmentally friendly composition and effectiveness as a disinfectant and sanitizer have allowed it to become one of the most used chemicals in various industries across the world.
From the production of paper to water treatment and waste processing, it’s undeniable how chlorine dioxide plays a large role in having a clean and sanitary environment.