Chlorine has been used as an effective disinfectant in drinking water supplies for nearly 100 years. Chlorine is considered necessary to destroy many of the bacteria in your drinking water.
If it cleanses your water, then what is the problem?
Health officials are concerned with the chlorinating by-products, also known as “chlorinated hydrocarbons” or trihalomethanes (THM’s). Most THM’s are formed in drinking water when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring substances such as decomposing plant and animal materials. Risk for certain types of cancer are now being correlated to the consumption of chlorinated drinking water. The President’s Council on Environmental Quality states that “there is increased evidence for an association between rectal, colon and bladder cancer and the consumption of chlorinated drinking water.” Suspected carcinogens make the human body more vulnerable through repeated ingestion and research indicates the incidence of cancer is 44% higher among those using chlorinated water.
Concerns about chlorine and health began in the 1960s. In one study, an association was shown to exist between chlorination and heart disease, evidence that was, interestingly, discovered in Jersey City, the site of the first large-scale chlorination project. The severity of heart disease among people over the age of 50 correlated with the amount of chlorinated tap water they consumed. A statistically significant correlation demonstrated that those persons over 50 who did not suffer from heart disease drank mostly unchlorinated fluids such as bottled water, or boiled water (chlorine is released as a gas when boiled).
Chlorine is one of the most reactive elements found in nature. It readily dissolves in water, where it combines with molecules of oxygen and hydrogen to form hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion. Chlorination of water is achieved by adding chlorine gas directly to the water supply, or by adding the chemicals calcium hypochlorite or sodium chlorite, both of which are known as “free available chlorine”.
Water utilities routinely disinfect drinking water to prevent microbial diseases, especially cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Top date, the greatest contribution to the protection of public health in the United States has been the disinfection of public water supplies, yet chlorine itself has been shown to cause a number of health problems. Two decades after the start of chlorinating our drinking water, the present epidemic of heart trouble and cancer began.
Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted new regulations in 1980 for cities to lower the chlorination by-products in water to level not exceeding 100 parts per billion, experts believe that it still doesn’t provide proper safeguards and should be strengthened. Unfortunately, there is little likelihood that the use of chlorine will be discontinued since it is currently the most economically acceptable chemical for bacterial control at this time. It is ironic that the process of chlorination, by which we cleanse our water of infectious organisms, can create cancer-causing substances from otherwise innocent chemicals in water.
The best way to reduce the levels of drinking chlorinated water is to purchase a quality water filter. Most all water filters are designed to reduce chlorine to an acceptable safe level for drinking.
Removal of Chlorine from Showers
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