Chlorine Water Effects: Is Chlorine in Water Bad for You?
This post will explore chlorine water effects on the human body.
Chlorine is used as a disinfectant which is efficient at killing bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella, and it also is fairly proficient at destroying viruses as well. It is added to our water supplies to prevent the spread of disease, and it is very effective at doing so. But are there any side effects of chlorine in drinking water? After all, if it is bad for microorganisms, isn’t also bad for our own cells?
Well, the short of it that it is bad for us, though not directly. Chlorine interacts with organic matter to create what is known as disinfection by-products. One such by-product is chloroform, a probable carcinogen. It falls under a class of compounds, Trihalomethanes (THMs), which produce free radicals in the human body.
If you have any doubts about this, you may want to consider quotes from people who should know better:
“We are learning the hard way that all the time we thought we were preventing epidemics of one disease‚ we were creating another. Two decades after the start of chlorinating our drinking water the present epidemic of heart trouble and cancer began.”
– Dr. Joseph M. Price‚ PhD
“The cause for atherosclerosis and resulting heart attacks and strokes is none other than the ubiquitous chlorine in our drinking water.”
– “Science News”, Vol 130, Janet Raloff
“One common factor among women with breast cancer is that they all have 50 to 60 percent higher levels of these chlorination by-products (THMs) in their fat tissue than women without breast cancer . . .” – BreastCancerFund.org
“Drinking tap water that is chlorinated is hazardous, if not deadly to your health.”
– US Council of Environmental Quality
If you want to view more of these quotes, you can go here.
It is not just the water you drink that is the problem, however. Did you know that you can absorb more toxins taking a shower than drinking tap water? Because your skin is such a large organ and has a large surface area, there is a huge opportunity for toxins such as chlorine to enter your bloodstream via the skin. Also, if you like taking a hot shower with plenty of steam, another entry point is through the lungs.
The EPA regulates the “safe” amount of Chlorine allowable is 4 parts-per-million (same for chloramines), which accordingly should result in no known health risks as well as providing some margin of safety. A good article countering the concerns of chlorination can be found here.
So who is correct? Remember that “the road to unintended consequences is paved with good intentions,” and while the debate rages on as to who is wrong and who is right, it makes sense to eradicate (as much as possible) the source of the controversy, which is, in this case, chlorine and chloramine. While we need these chemicals to disinfect our water supply – although UV light would work just as well and without any negative ramifications, we want to be able to remove them via a filter, or else our bodies become that filter. Chlorine is effectively reduced through the use of Activated Carbon Water Filters. Chloramines, which result from a combination of ammonia and chloride, require a combination activated carbon water filter along with reverse osmosis(RO) filter. You will also want to ensure that your filters are certified to remove THMs. Follow protocols for regular filter replacement.
What are other chlorine water effects? Remember also that chlorine can damage the membrane of reverse osmosis (RO) filters and so the solution should be pre-filtered with activated carbon. There are different types of RO membranes and each has own strengths and weaknesses. Some RO membranes are more susceptible to damage from chlorine than other. The Thin Film Composite (TFC) membrane is a synthetic material which is very susceptible to damage from chlorine. Its benefit is that it has a high flow rate and is tolerant to fluctuations in pH. Cellulose tri-acetate membranes are made from organic materials which are less susceptible to damage from chlorine, though they are not tolerant to fluctuations in pH and their rejection of impurities are not as good as the TFC material.
What are Chloramines?
Chloramines have been used by utility companies since the 1930s. However, they are less aggressive and are generally more stable than chlorine, and so offer longer-lasting disinfection (i.e., they do not dissipate as fast as chlorine). They are starting to displace chlorine as the disinfectant of choice, given the issues associated with chlorine, and while chloramines still can react with organic matter to form trihalomethanes (THMs), they do so at much lower concentrations, about 1/3rd that of chlorinated water. In older homes, chloramines can cause increased exposure to lead in drinking water (as Lead is leached from old pipes, fixtures, and solder joints). Some health-related issues for chloramines can be located here.
If you want to explore how to eliminate chlorine from your water supply, read Home Water Filter Systems.
Until next time …