Author Topic: Chlorine Dioxide: Is It Appropriate To Use During Mold Remediation?  (Read 73 times)

JasonYost

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      Over the course of my twenty-seven years in the indoor environmental inspection and remediation industry I have heard all kinds of sales-pitches for various products, meant to help mold remediators perform their duties “faster”, “safer” and “with less mess”.  And, I’ve tested behind many of their applications. . . .   One such product is chlorine dioxide (ClO₂).  Since its introduction in the mold remediation industry (used in response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster), I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to this product and the results of its application on mold remediation projects.

      ClO₂ is not found naturally in the environment.  At room temperature it is a red-yellow gas that is highly unstable, decomposing into its elements at an explosive rate.  Because of this, it is never shipped “ready to use”; rather, it is produced near the point of its intended use.  That production is a two-step process (each of which is conducted under vacuum conditions):

      1.)   Sodium hypochlorite is reacted with hydrochloric acid to generate chlorine; then,
      2.)   The chlorine is reacted with a sodium chlorite solution, which results in the generation of chlorine dioxide.

      The exception to this transportation rule is when the chlorine dioxide is frozen as a hydrate.  When chlorine dioxide is dissolved in water, an aqueous solution is produced known as chlorine dioxide hydrate.  (This frozen solid is orange-colored, appearing as a block of ice, with a faint odor of chlorine.)  When shippers offer the frozen hydrate for transportation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires them to maintain the gas in the solid state using dry ice or other means, and requires identification of the gas on the accompanying shipping paper as follows:
      NA9191, Chlorine dioxide, hydrate, frozen, 5.1, (6.1), PGII (Poison)

      ClO₂ was used as a microbicide in many ways prior to Hurricane Katrina; for example, it was used to disinfect water in the dairy, beverage and other food industries.  And, at water-treatment plants it is used to kill bacteria.  Along that same line, ClO₂ has been used to kill anthrax in mail packages, like the Hart Senate Office Building, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  It was these uses that led insurance companies and remediation companies to believe that ClO₂ could successfully be used to remediate mold in contaminated buildings.  (It is interesting to note that it was found effective when the microorganism was present in low concentrations.)

      Anthrax on a petri dish

      In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, ClO₂ was used in a number of houses all across the Gulf Coast; however, unlike its previous uses listed above, this application would prove unsuccessful.  All over Louisiana and Mississippi (where the product was mainly applied) people were returning home to find visible mold contamination in their homes and offices – despite its application.  Eventually this led the State of Louisiana to sue insurance and remediation companies on behalf of its citizens, and the State won their case.  So, what went wrong?  After all, if it is such a highly unstable, life-killing agent, why didn’t it work in remediating these buildings?

      With any microbicide, like ClO₂, the most one can hope for is that it will kill the organisms present.  That means that even if it works (as a life-killing agent), the dead organisms will remain.  In the cases involved in the Hurricane Katrina applications, this meant many houses were left with visible contamination; and whether living or not, it was contamination that required further work to remediate the buildings of mold contamination. 

      Mold found on drywall after treatment with ClO₂
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      Is dead mold still a threat to one’s health?

      Yes.  Dead organisms can be an allergy or asthma trigger, or instigate other negative responses in those biologically sensitive.  Some organisms, capable of producing toxins, may continue to release toxins as their cell-structure breaks down (i.e., the organism decays).

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      Is this product still used today?

      I have seen a few companies utilize it.  Yes.

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      Is the product dangerous for people?

      Yes.  When chlorine dioxide hydrate warms up and thaws, it gives off a chlorine dioxide gas that is highly toxic if inhaled.  (The odor is similar to chlorine and nitric acid.)  The following are a few hazards associated with ClO₂:

      1)   Highly irritating to skin and mucous membranes of respiratory tract.

      2)   May explode on heating or on exposure to sunlight or on shock or if subjected to sparks.  The substance is a strong oxidant.  It reacts with combustible and reducing materials.  Reacts violently with organics, phosphorus, potassium hydroxide and sulfur.  This generates fire and explosion hazard.  Reacts with water.  This produces hydrochloric acid and chloric acid.

      3)   Inhalation, ingestion or contact (skin, eyes) with vapors, dusts or substance may cause severe injury, burns or death.  It has been shown to cause DNA damage in laboratory tests.

      ClO₂ is not classifiable as a human carcinogen because of inadequate data in humans and animals.  Under the draft Carcinogen Assessment Guidelines (USEPA, 1996), the human carcinogenicity of chlorine dioxide cannot be determined because no satisfactory human or animal studies assessing the chronic carcinogenic potential of chlorine dioxide have been located.


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      For more on ClO₂ visit this website: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/chlorine_dioxide.
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      JasonYost

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      Re: Chlorine Dioxide: Is It Appropriate To Use During Mold Remediation?
      « Reply #1 on: April 11, 2018, 05:18:42 PM »
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          Jason, I live in Terre Haute, Indiana, and I've heard some companies tell me they can use pesticides to remediate mold.  They claim that they're the only ones who can remediate my home; because, they are the only ones with license to handle pesticides.  Is this true?

          No.  In fact, it can be a violation of the (federal) law for them to make such claims, as they are using the products against the labeling instructions.  That said: I'd point you to the original post and the brief on what biocides/pesticides/microbicides do (at best) and what's left behind.  The application of any life-killing agent is not remediation.  Remediation require (1) causal factors be identified and corrected; (2) mold contamination on physical surfaces be addressed so the building is returned to a normal fungal condition; and, (3) the indoor air quality be processed to return it to a normal fungal condition.  Anything less is mitigatory, not remedial.
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