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Sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) is a strong disinfectant and bleaching agent, typically used in domestic bleach products such as Clorox. It is also used in industrial and commercial cleaning solutions, as well as swimming pool products. It is corrosive to some metals and alloys, especially at higher concentrations, and may irritate skin and eyes when exposed. It is known to cause post-translational modification of cysteine and methionine in proteins, which can lead to protein denaturation and subsequent cell death.
Typical household bleach products contain 3-6% sodium hypochlorite, and industrial-strength solutions can contain up to 15%. A common dilution of this solution is 1:15 (1 part sodium hypochlorite to 15 parts water), which can be used for disinfection of surfaces, floors and walls in public health units, health care facilities, child care centres and swimming pools. It can also be used to disinfect wells and sanitize utensils in homes and food processing plants.
Concentrated solutions of sodium hypochlorite are also used at nerve agent (chemical warfare nerve gas) destruction sites to remove any traces of the blister and nerve agents from clothing worn by personnel entering toxic areas, and to ensure that there is no accidental release of the agents into the environment. Sodium hypochlorite also has de-staining properties, and is used to remove mold stains, teeth stains caused by fluorosis, stains on crockery and tea stains on brewed coffee.
If exposure occurs, symptoms include irritation of the skin and eyes, which can be treated by rinsing the exposed area with water, followed by washing thoroughly. If ingestion occurs, seek immediate medical attention.