Mechanistic aspects of ingested chlorine dioxide on thyroid function: impact of oxidants on iodide metabolism

Environ Health Perspect. 1986 Nov:69:249-54. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8669249.


Toxicological studies dealing with recent findings of health effects of drinking water disinfectants are reviewed. Experiments with monkeys and rodents indicate that the biological activity of ingested disinfectants is expressed via their chemical interaction with the mucosal epithelia, secretory products, and nutritional contents of the alimentary tract. Evidence exists that a principal partner of this redox interaction is the iodide of nutritional origin that is ubiquitous in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus the observation that subchronic exposure to chlorine dioxide (ClO2) in drinking water decreases serum thyroxine levels in mammalian species can be best explained with changes produced in the chemical form of the bioavailable iodide. Ongoing and previously reported mechanistic studies indicate that oxidizing agents such as chlorine-based disinfectants oxidize the basal iodide content of the gastrointestinal tract. The resulting reactive iodine species readily attaches to organic matter by covalent bonding. Evidence suggests that the extent to which such iodinated organics are formed is proportional to the magnitude of the electromotive force and stoichiometry of the redox couple between iodide and the disinfectant. Because the extent of thyroid uptake of the bioavailable iodide does not decrease during ClO2 ingestion, it seems that ClO2 does not cause iodide deficiency of sufficient magnitude to account for the decrease in hormonogenesis. Absorption of one or more of iodinated molecules, e.g., nutrients, hormones, or cellular constituents of the alimentary tract having thyromimetic or thyroid inhibitory properties, is a better hypothesis for the effects seen.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorine / toxicity*
  • Chlorine Compounds*
  • Digestive System / drug effects
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Disinfectants / toxicity*
  • Iodides / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mucous Membrane / drug effects
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxides / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects*
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Tongue / drug effects
  • Tongue / ultrastructure
  • Water Supply / analysis


  • Chlorine Compounds
  • Disinfectants
  • Iodides
  • Oxides
  • Chlorine
  • chlorine dioxide