Two interhalogens having strong disinfecting properties are iodine monochloride (IC1) and iodine bromide (IBr). Iodine monochloride has found use as a topical antiseptic. It may be complexed with nonionic or anionic detergents to yield bactericides and fungicides that can be used in cleansing or sanitizing formulations. These generally have a polymer structure which establishes its great stability, increased solubility, and lower volatility. By reducing the free halogen concentration in solution, polymers reduce both the chemical and bactericidal activity. Complexes of IC1 are useful disinfectants which compromise lower bactericidal activity with increased stability. Iodine monochloride is itself a highly reactive compound, reacting with many metals to produce metal chlorides. Under normal conditions it will not react with tantalum, chromium, molybdenum, zirconium, tungsten, or platinum. With organic compounds, reactions cause iodination, chlorination, decomposition, or the generation of halogen addition compounds. In water, ICI hydrolyzes to hypoiodous and hydrochloric acids. In the absence of excess chloride ions, hypoiodous acid will disproportionate into iodic acid and iodine. Iodine bromide has a chemistry similar to ICI. Iodine bromide reacts with aromatic compounds to produce iodination in polar solvents and bromination in nonpolar solvents. It has complex chemical properties, as its solubility is increased more effectively by bromide than by chlorided ions. Primary hydrolysis takes place in the presence of hydrobromic acid. As a disinfectant, IBr is used in its complexed or stabilized forms. Unfortunately, it undergoes hydrolysis and dissociation reactions in aqueous solutions, both reactions being major limitations. Its disinfecting properties are similar to ICI and as in the case of ICI, germicidal activity should not be reduced by haloamine formation since bromamines are highly reactive and iodoamines are not generated. Upon application of prepared solutions to control microorganisms, the complex releases IBr gradually. This process forms free iodine during the decomposition of IBr (the decomposition takes place as fast as the IBr is released).
Two approaches that have been investigated recently for disinfection are mixtures of bromine and chlorine, and mixtures containing bromide or iodide salts. Some evidence exists that mixtures of bromine and chlorine have superior germicidal properties than either halogen alone. It is believed that the increased bacterial activity of these mixtures can be attributed to the attacks by bromine on sites other than those affected by chlorine. The oxidation of bromide or iodide salts can be used to prepare interhalogen compounds or the hypollalous acid in accordance with the following reaction:
It has been reported that the rate of bacterial sterilization by chlorine in the presence of ammonia is accelerated with small amounts of bromides. As little as 0.25 ppm of bromamines can be significant under some conditions. However, if chloramines are produced prior to contact with bromide ions, the reaction and subsequent effect are reduced. Improved germicidal activity has also been shown for mixtures containing bromides and iodides with various chlorine releasing compounds. Bromide improves the disinfecting properties of dichloroisocyanuric acid and hypochlorite against several bacteria. Bromine-containing compounds are useful for their combined bleaching and disinfectant properties. There has been the concern that the use of interhalogen compounds in wastewater disinfection could produce unknown organic and inorganic halogen-containing substances. In the case of iodine, concern has been expressed over the physiological aspects in water supplies. Extensive studies have been reported on the role played by iodine and iodides in the thyroid glands of animals and man. Information on acute inhibition of hormone formation by excessive amounts of iodine is well known. Despite the fact that no strong evidence exists that iodine is harmful as a water disinfectant, only limited use has been attempted. Chronic bromide intoxication from continuous exposure to dosages above 3 - 5 g is called bromism. Typical symptoms are skin rash, glandular excretions, gastrointestinal disturbances, and neurological disturbances. Bromide can be absorbed from the intestinal tract and contaminate the body in a manner very similar to that for chloride. Brominated drinking water does not, however, significantly increase the amount of bromine admitted internally. The amount of additional bromine in chlorobrominated waters will not significantly increase human bromine concentrations nor result in bromism.
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