Chlorine has been hailed as the savior against cholera & various other water-borne diseases, and rightfully so. The disinfectant qualities of chlorine have allowed whole cities to grow & prosper by providing disease-free tap water to homes and industry. So, what’s the problem with chlorine? The first continuous use of chlorine in the United States for disinfection took place in 1908 at Boonton Reservoir which served as the supply for Jersey City, New Jersey. Early attempts at implementing water chlorination at a water treatment plant were made in 1893 in Hamburg, Germany, and in 1897 the town of Maidstone, England was the first to have its entire water supply treated with chlorine. Adding chlorine to our water kills or inactivates the microorganisms that cause diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery and giardiasis. A century ago this was progress.
In 2017 what new information do we have about using chlorine to disinfect our water? Chlorine does keep municipal water clean of typhoid & cholera. But now that we are not dying of those diseases, we do see other health effects from the use of chlorine as a disinfectant.
Chlorine destroys acidophilus, a probiotic which helps to maintain a balanced colon. A healthy immune system is dependent upon a healthy colon. People have allergic reactions to the chlorine in their drinking water. Symptoms include skin rashes, headaches, gastrointestinal difficulties and even arthritis.
Chlorine reacts with organic materials in our sewer systems to create by-products. As chlorine is a persistent chemical, so are the by-products. The main disinfection by-products produced are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). DBPs (disinfection by-products) are linked to reproductive issues & birth defects, heart disease and cancers.
Scientists have linked the pollution worldwide of rivers and oceans and the chlorination of swimming pools to increased incidents of melanoma. And, drinking chlorinated water is associated with increased risk of bladder and rectal cancers, due to our bodies storing waste products containing chlorine and its by-products. The US Council of Environmental Quality reports that the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is 93% higher than those who drink water without chlorine.
It will take time to modernize our municipal systems. There are better options such as ozonation to sterilize water. But, to guarantee that the water is technically still safe to drink when it comes out of your tap, cities like Las Vegas who use ozonation still add chlorine to “protect” it on the journey to your house.
To protect yourself and your family, consider filtration for your drinking water at a minimum. There are affordable and effective filters to tide us over until our city systems are redesigned and rebuilt.
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