Toxicological effects of chlorine dioxide, chlorite and chlorate

Environ Health Perspect. 1982 Dec;46:13-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.824613.


Review of the available literature obtained from both acute and chronic experiments utilizing rats, mice and chickens treated with ClO2, ClO2- and ClO3-in drinking water has demonstrated alterations in hematologic parameters in all species tested. The effects were usually dose related and marked changes occurred only at the higher dosages (up to 1000 mg/l.). In chronic studies, rats have been given ClO2 at doses of up to 1000 mg/l., and NaClO2 or NaClO3 at up to 100 mg/l., in their drinking water for one year. Treatment groups receiving ClO2, ClO2- or ClO3- showed alterations in erythrocyte morphology and osmotic fragility; at higher dosages mild hemolytic anemia occurred. An examination of blood glutathione content and RBC enzymes involving glutathione formation showed a dose-related diminution of glutathione in chlorine compound treated groups. The higher oxidative capacity of the chlorine compounds resulting in the decreased erythrocytic glutathione might well be the principal biochemical event leading to the other hematological alterations. More recent data show that ClO2, ClO2- and ClO3- alter the incorporation of 3H-thymidine into the nuclei of various organs of the rat. These data suggest the possibility of increased turnover cells of the gastrointestinal mucosa and inhibited DNA synthesis in several organs. In the latter category, most concern revolves around whether or not the apparent depression of DNA synthesis in the testes is associated with depressed spermatogenesis and reproductive toxicity in the male rat.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorides / pharmacology
  • Chlorides / toxicity*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Disinfectants / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Hematocrit
  • Male
  • Methemoglobinemia / chemically induced
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects
  • Thymidine / metabolism
  • Water Supply


  • Chlorides
  • Disinfectants
  • Thymidine