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Chlorates Toxicity - An Overview

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Chlorate toxicity is characterized by hemolysis, renal insufficiency, and methemoglobin formation. Read the article to learn about chlorate toxicity in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Arpit Varshney

Published At March 1, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 1, 2023


Chlorates are salts of chloric acid (HClO3) or any molecule that contains chlorate anion. Chlorates are widely used as oxidizing agents in various agricultural, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications. However, chlorate is a toxic substance that can cause harm to humans and animals if ingested in large quantities. In addition, they can form explosives when combined with common materials and are cautiously handled. Therefore, the workers must follow some control measures in industrial areas to prevent chlorate toxicity, and it is important to follow precautions and guidelines while handling products containing chlorates.

What Is Chlorate?

Chlorate is an oxy-halogen compound that combines a metal or hydrogen cation and the ClO3- monovalent anion. They are manufactured by chloride solution electrolysis. The chlorate products are colorless, white, or pale yellow crystals and are soluble in water.

The chlorates do not occur naturally but in solutions as a by-product of chlorine dioxide used in industrial purposes such as pulp bleaching and water disinfection. Chlorates are not explosives but form flammable or explosive mixtures with organic matter, sulfur, sulfides, ammonium compounds, and powdered metals.

What Are the Types of Chlorate?

Chlorates are the salts that contain the anion ClO3-. Some of the common types of chlorates include the following:

  1. Sodium chlorate.

  2. Potassium chlorate.

  3. Calcium chlorate.

  4. Magnesium chlorate.

  5. Ammonium chlorate.

What Are the Uses of Chlorates?

Chlorates have a wide variety of commercial applications. The uses of different types of chlorates include the following:

1. Sodium Chlorate:

  • Bleaching agent for paper pulps.

  • Perchlorate formulation.

  • Uranium ore processing.

  • Explosives and matches manufacturing.

  • Pharmaceutical aids.

  • Dyeing and printing fabrics.

  • Tanning and finishing leather.

  • Rocket fuel oxidant.

  • Soil sterilant, cotton defoliant, desiccant, and harvest aid in agricultural industries.

2. Potassium Chlorate:

  • Match tips.

  • Pyrotechnics.

  • Explosives and propellants.

  • Dyeing of cotton, furs, and wool.

  • Pulp and paper manufacturing.

  • Gargles, mouthwash, dentifrices, and throat Lozenges in pharmaceutical industries.

3. Calcium Chlorate:

  • Processing boiler waste and waste glasses.

  • Pyrotechnics.

  • Photography.

  • Potassium chlorate production.

  • Herbicide, insecticide, and seed disinfectant in agricultural industries.

4. Magnesium Chlorate:

  • Used for cotton defoliation in agricultural industries.

  • Source of oxygen in industries.

  • The oxidizing agent in pyrotechnics.

5. Ammonium Chlorate:

  • Fertilizer.

  • The oxidizing agent in the firework productions and pyrotechnic products.

How to Prepare Chlorates?

The preparation of chlorates includes the following:

  1. Sodium Chlorate Industrial Preparation - Sodium chlorates are prepared on a large scale with aqueous sodium chloride (brine).

  2. Chlorate Preparation in the Laboratory - Adding chlorine to heated metal hydroxide produces metal chlorates.

What Is Chlorate Toxicity?

Chlorate toxicity refers to the toxic effects of consuming or being exposed to excessive amounts of chlorate, which contains chlorine and oxygen. Ingestion of high doses of chlorate can lead to serious health problems and may cause death in severe cases if left untreated.

What Are the Types of Chlorate Toxicity?

The three types of chlorate toxicity include the following:

  1. Acute Toxicity - It occurs when a large quantity of chlorate is ingested within a short period. It leads to serious health problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance, and even death.

  2. Chronic Toxicity - It occurs when low chlorate doses are ingested over an extended period. It may lead to long-term health issues such as anemia, kidney damage, and increased cancer risk.

  3. Dermal Toxicity - Dermal toxicity refers to the toxic effects of skin exposure to chlorates. It causes skin irritation, redness, itching, and rashes.

What Is the Pathogenesis of Chlorate Toxicity?

Chlorate toxicity results from inhalation, ingestion, eye exposure, or dermal exposure to chlorate salts. The toxicity of chlorates is due to their ability to interfere with thyroid gland functions by inhibiting the uptake of iodine by the thyroid, leading to decreased production of thyroid hormones. As a result, it may affect the metabolism of the body. In addition, higher doses lead to changes in thyroid hormone levels, especially in children, pregnant women, and people with thyroid dysfunctions. In severe cases of chlorate toxicity, damage to the erythrocytes (red blood cells) occurs, resulting in methemoglobin formation and hemolysis, resulting in anemia.

What Are the Complications of Chlorate Toxicity?

Chlorate toxicity causes several serious health complications, which include the following:

  • Gastrointestinal Problems: High doses of chlorate ingestion lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

  • Neurological Problems: Headache, dizziness, and confusion may result from inhalation of chlorate dust or fumes.

  • Hematological Effects:

  1. Chlorate exposure can lead to anemia, as it interferes with the production of red blood cells.
  2. Anemia is when a decrease in hemoglobin or red blood cells results in fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
  3. It also causes methemoglobinemia in which the iron molecule in hemoglobin (a protein that carries oxygen in the blood) is oxidized to a form that cannot transport oxygen effectively, reducing the amount of oxygen to the tissues of the body and causing bluish discoloration (the bluish color is due to the excessively oxidized hemoglobin).

Thyroid Effects: Chlorates inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid, resulting in decreased thyroid hormone production and hypothyroidism.

  • Cardiovascular Effects: Increased exposure to chlorates affects the function and metabolism of the heart, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.

  • Respiratory Problems:

  1. Inhalation of a high amount of chlorates can irritate the nose and throat, causing breathing difficulties, wheezing, and coughing.
  2. It can lead to lung damage and respiratory problems during prolonged exposure.
  • Cancer: Prolonged exposure to chlorates can increase the risk of lung and bladder cancer.

How to Manage Chlorate Toxicity?

The management of chlorate toxicity depends on the exposure's symptoms and severity. However, the general steps in treating chlorate toxicity include the following:

1. Decontamination:

  • It is recommended when the patient has not ingested the substance.

  • It includes removing the clothing and washing the skin with soap and water.

  • The person is moved to a place with fresh air.

2. Stabilization:

  • Patients with severe symptoms, such as increased heartbeat and breathing difficulties, require stabilization.

  • It includes the administration of oxygen and medications to support breathing and circulation.

3. Supportive Care:

It includes fluid administration to treat dehydration, antacids to treat abdominal pain, and anti-nausea medications to treat vomiting.

4. Hemodialysis:

  • Hemodialysis removes the toxic substance from the body in severe cases of chlorate toxicity.

  • In this procedure, blood is removed from the person and passed through a machine that removes toxins, and the clean blood is returned to the person.

5. Antidotal Therapy:

  • There is no specific antidote for chlorate toxicity.

  • Some medications are used to treat the symptoms and prevent future complications.

  • Vitamin K treats anemia caused by chlorate toxicity.

  • Methylene blue (one to two milligrams per kilogram) treats methemoglobinemia.

  • Intravenous sodium thiosulfate (anecdotal).


People suspected of having chlorate exposure should seek medical attention as early as possible. Early treatment can help to prevent or minimize the serious complications of chlorate toxicity.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Dangers of Chlorate?

Breathing potassium chlorate can cause irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs. It causes sneezing and coughing, which can lead to a sore throat. Chlorates are potentially dangerous if ingested or inhaled. If it reaches the body at high levels, it can interfere with the oxygen supply, causing dizziness, headache, etc.


What Is the Antidote for Chlorate Poisoning?

Ingestion of chlorates can be toxic or life-threatening. Gastric lavage; administration of activated charcoal, sodium thiosulfate, alkaline diuresis, or methylene blue are some methods done for chlorate poisoning. In severe cases, exchange transfusion with possible hemodialysis can be done.


What Are the Examples of Chlorate?

ClO-3 anions are called chlorates. Examples of chlorates can include sodium chlorate, potassium chlorate, magnesium chlorate, etc. They can be potentially dangerous if ingested or inhaled. They are the salts of chloric acid.


How To Remove Chlorate?

Chlorates from water can be removed by reverse osmosis. It is used in the food industry to remove chlorate and perchlorates from water. Boiling the water well for about fifteen minutes will also give the same result. Ingestion of chlorates can be toxic or life-threatening.


What Is the Source of Chlorate?

Chlorine dioxide or hypochlorite is used as a disinfectant and odor and taste control in water. Chlorates and chlorites are seen as the by-products of these processes. It is also used for processing food to store them for longer periods.


What Is the Medical Use of Chlorate?

Potassium chlorate is used in gargles, mouthwashes, and dentifrices. They are also used as extemporaneous preparations for conditions like stomatitis and mercury poisoning. Low levels of potassium are treated using potassium chloride. The use of some medicines, or after a prolonged illness with diarrhea or vomiting, can cause a decrease in potassium levels.


Is Chlorate Found in Food?

Chlorates can be found in found while using it to disinfect or process food. Fruits and vegetables are the group of food that are mostly affected by chlorates. Frozen food has the highest amount of chlorates in food.


What Is the Color of Chlorate?

Inorganic chlorate is crystalline white in color. It is water soluble and noncombustible. However, it can form a flammable substance when joined with flammable substances. A mixture of flammable substances can be explosive if chlorates are a very fine powder.


Is Chlorate a Pesticide?

Yes, chlorates are used as pesticides. Hence, they can cause potential harm to humans if inhaled or ingested. Sodium chlorate was as a pesticide, largely to kill weeds and undesirable foliage. It is harmful to the environment and humans.


What Is the Difference Between Chloride and Chlorate?

Both chloride and chlorate are anions of chlorine. Chloride has only one atom. On the other hand, chlorate has four atoms. This is the main difference between the two.


Is Chlorate an Explosive?

Chlorate is water soluble and noncombustible. However, it can form a flammable substance when joined with flammable substances. A mixture of flammable substances can be explosive if chlorates are a very fine powder.


Is Chlorate Toxic in Animals?

Potassium chlorate has caused renal tubular necrosis in animals. It can cause the rupture of red blood cell membranes, causing intravascular hemolysis. All these are examples of the toxicity of chlorates in animals.
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Dr. Arpit Varshney
Dr. Arpit Varshney

General Medicine


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