Germicidal Destruction

Chlorine's ability to destroy bacteria and various microorganisms results from chemical interference in the functioning of the organism. Specifically, it is the chemical reaction between HOC1 and the bacterial or viral cell structure which inactivates the required life processes. The high germicidal efficiency of HOC1 is attributed to the ease by which it is able to penetrate cell walls. This penetration is comparable to that of water and is due both to its low molecular weight (that is, it's a small molecule) and its electrical neutrality. Organism fatalities result from a chemical reaction of HOCI with an enzyme system in the cell which is essential to the metabolic functioning of the organism. The enzyme attacked is triosephosphate dehydrogenase, found in most cells and essential for digesting glucose. Other enzymes also undergo attack. However, triosephosphate dehydrogenase is particularly sensitive to oxidizing agents. The OC1" ion resulting from the dissociation is a relatively poor disinfectant because of its inability to diffuse through a microorganism's cell walls. This is because of its negative charge. The sensitivity of bacteria to chlorination is well known. However, the effect on protozoans and viruses has not been entirely delineated. Protozoal cysts and enteric viruses are more resistant to chlorine than are coliforms and other enteric bacteria.




Figure 2. Breakpoint chlorination curve.

However, very little evidence exists to indicate that current water treatment practices are inadequate (no outbreaks of viral or protozoal infections have been reported and waterborne diseases attributed to these pathogens are rare in this country).

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