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Published: July 2012
Sodium, calcium, potassium and lithium hypochlorite are strong oxidizing agents used for bleaching, sanitation and disinfection. On a consumption basis, sodium hypochlorite accounted for 91% of total global hypochlorite use, with calcium hypochlorite at 9%. Lithium and potassium hypochlorite account for a negligible share.
The global market for all disinfectants, including chlorine-based disinfectants, is increasing as a result of growing concerns over the spread of infectious diseases following outbreaks in 2003, 2004 and 2009 of swine flu (H1N1), avian influenza (bird flu), pertussis, common flu, cholera, West Nile virus and others. As a result, the role played by chlorinated disinfectants is related to health and social issues, and less dependent on the general economy.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of sodium hypochlorite:
Sodium hypochlorite is commonly referred to as "liquid chlorine bleach" throughout the world. In the home, sodium hypochlorite is used principally for household laundry bleaching and disinfection. Use of household bleach has increased during the past few years, with growing concerns over infectious diseases. Mold and mildew became an issue in the U.S. Gulf Coast as a result of hurricane damage. Consumption of sodium hypochlorite in laundry bleach applications currently accounts for 67% of use, with disinfectant use accounting for the remaining 33%.
Global demand for sodium hypochlorite for household use is projected to grow at almost 2% annually during 2012–2017. This compares with a projected growth in global demand for all disinfectants and microbials of 4.0% annually during 2012–2017 for both household and industrial uses. Much of this growth is related to consumer concern over foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella, and recent outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza and influenza H1N1. These highly publicized outbreaks were generally the result of lapses in proper sanitation techniques in food and beverage processing.
Globally, industrial applications for sodium hypochlorite are forecast to grow at a rate of 2.5% annually during 2012–2017 but will vary by region. The leading application is municipal/industrial water treatment disinfection, which accounted for about 60% of total industrial consumption.
The World Bank estimates that 1.1 billion people globally lack access to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitization, and nearly 50% of the world's hospital beds are populated by people who have contracted waterborne diseases. Furthermore, if present consumption rates continue, in 25 years, the world will be using 90% of all available freshwater. As a result, desalination and water reuse will become a more important source of freshwater. Currently, there are over 10,000 desalination plants in the world, in at least 120 countries. There are over 100 water reuse facilities. Both will require reliable disinfection technologies, some of which include sodium hypochlorite either in pre- or posttreatment to prevent biological fouling within the system itself or the distribution system. At present, nearly 75% of all global desalination capacity is in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and North Africa. In the past five years, reverse osmosis (RO) has become the leading desalination technology, replacing multistage flash distillation. Most plants installed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates use distillation. Most plants in the United States rely upon RO and vapor compression. As a result, consumption of sodium hypochlorite is forecast to continue to grow.
The largest market for calcium hypochlorite is swimming pool sanitization, which accounts for about 46% of its total consumption. Use for disinfection and aquaculture applications is forecast to continue to grow rapidly, in particular in Asia. Aquaculture has been growing at a rate of over 9% annually for the past ten years and production is forecast to continue at that pace and to double in the next twelve to fifteen years.
Lithium hypochlorite finds use primarily as a shock treatment in pools with vinyl liners, fiberglass, painted pools and spas.