Elemental chlorine is a greenish gas and powerful oxidant that is used as a chemical weapon because of its severe irritant properties. Chlorine reacts with most organic compounds and is an essential reagent in the chemical industry.
There are no published studies on the effects of exposure to elemental chlorine in human pregnancy. Increased incidences of urinary tract defects, preterm delivery, and low birth weight have been reported following environmental exposure to water chlorination by-products (through drinking water), however data are inconclusive and their relevance to exposure to chlorine is uncertain.
As with all chemicals, unnecessary exposure to chlorine during pregnancy should be avoided due to a lack of information on safety. Where exposure is expected to occur, it should be well within the recommended exposure limits and not associated with toxic symptoms. There is currently no indication that normal use of household products containing chlorine poses a hazard.
Following acute chlorine exposure in a pregnant woman, maternal toxicity is likely to be a major determinant of fetal risk. However, due to a lack of data relating to the teratogenicity of chlorine, it is not currently possible to state that an absence of maternal toxicity excludes the possibility of adverse effects on the developing fetus. Treatment should be as for the non-pregnant patient and is largely supportive.
Exposure to chlorine at any stage of pregnancy would not usually be regarded as medical grounds for termination of pregnancy or any additional fetal monitoring. However, other risk factors may be present in individual cases which may independently increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcome. Clinicians are reminded of the importance of consideration of such factors when performing case-specific risk assessments.
This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to NHS health care professionals who are logged in.
If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.
If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.