A chloride (Cl-) is a negatively charged ion (anion) of chlorine. Many chlorides are salts of hydrochloric acid (HCl); the most common is sodium chloride (salt). Sea water contains approximately 3.5% salt.  When sodium chloride (salt) dissolves in water, positively charged sodium ions and negatively charged chloride ions are formed.  Hydration shells may form around these charged ions, ordering the water molecules in the neighbourhood of the ions.

Too much salt in the diet has been linked with the elevation of blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as the 'silent killer'  as people are frequently unaware of the problem; sufferers with hypertension are more likely to suffer a heart attack, damage to the kidneys, aneurysms ('balloons' in the walls of arteries) or a stroke.   It is not necessarily the table salt that you add to your food that is the main culprit: a lot of salt can be 'hidden' in the processed foods and ready meals that we buy. 

Chloride is needed by the body: it helps to regulate the acid – base balance (acidity / alkalinity) of the body fluids and blood plasma.  It also functions as an enzyme effector or modulator; that is to say, it helps certain enzymes to work efficiently.  Enzymes control the rate at which reactions proceed within cells.  Chloride is thought to be involved in the allosteric activation of amylase.  It causes a subtle change in the shape of the amylase so that it can work more efficiently.  Amylase acts on starch molecules (complex polysaccharide), breaking them down into simpler carbohydrates.  

The level of chloride in the body is regulated by the kidneys, where the movement of sodium ions and chloride ions is adjusted in the distal convoluted tubule of the nephrons.  Tears and sweat taste of salt; and excessive sweating either through exercise or exposure to high temperatures can result in the depletion of sodium (and water) levels in the body.  Headaches and muscle cramps are amongst the first symptoms.

Organic compounds can also contain chlorine: for example, carbon tetrachloride, which was once used as a dry-cleaning solvent.

Comments on this article

Edward Dobbs 4 July, 2013

What is the mixture of chloride with water to put in nife hand lamp type NH 10

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