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Water Chlorination -Origins & Attributes
Water chlorination was first introduced 1897 the town of Maidstone, Kent. Following a serious outbreak of typhoid in Lincoln, which was successfully controlled by chlorination of the water supply, the process was implemented throughout Britain beginning in 1905.
However, there is also a darker side to this method of water disinfection.
The reason chlorination is so effective against such a wide variety of pathogens is because chlorine, a member of the halide group of elements, is a highly aggressive chemical and is toxic to most life forms, (the Legionellas pathogen has considerable resistance however), attacking most living cells, including the body’s beneficial bacteria particularly in the gut, the health of which has a major influence on the overall health of the body.
Chlorine’s aggressive action on the lining of the lungs was utilised in WW1 where it was employed as the central ingredient in the ‘Mustard Gas’used for early chemical warfare.
Effects on Health
So what effect does it have on human health when used in drinking water?
A major issue is that chlorine can react with naturally occurring organic compounds found in the water supply to produce trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Trihalomethanes are known to be carcinogenic (cancer causing); this may be why, according to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is 93 percent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.
That means you’ve almost twice the risk of developing cancer by drinking municipal ‘safe’ treated water than water purified by other means. And it’s not just ingestion where the dangers occur. Research from the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands discovered that people who swam in chlorinated pools or polluted waters as children had 2.2 to 2.4 times the risk of developing melanoma compared to those who did not swim in chlorinated waters.
Chlorine’s effects on health can include:
However the activity which represents the greatest potential long term health risk from chlorinated water is your daily shower.
Beware the Morning Shower
When you shower, the warm water opens up your skin’s pores, making it like a sponge for chlorine. Meanwhile, the steam in your shower, which you readily inhale, is full of chlorine and its major by-product chloroform, also a carcinogen. When we inhale chloroform, it goes directly into the bloodstreams without any kind of preliminary detoxification, the doses may seem relatively small, but they are regular, once or even twice daily, every day. Some reports indicate that you may be inhaling 50% more chlorine during a hot shower than while swimming in a cold pool.
A report on studies linking chlorine to rectal and breast cancer in The Scientific American states that:
“The link between chlorine and bladder and rectal cancers has long been known, but only recently have researchers found a link between common chlorine disinfectant and breast cancer, which affects one out of every eight American women. A recent study conducted in Hartford, Connecticut found that women with breast cancer have 50-60 percent higher levels of organo-chlorines (chlorine by-products) in their breast tissue than cancer-free women.”
Granted, there are additional sources of organo-chlorines such as pesticides but this should only serve to emphasise the need to reduce chlorine exposure in our water to the minimum.
So Any Good News?
Many governments have abandoned the use of chlorine for water disinfection and replaced it with safer alternatives such as ozone treatment and ultra-violet light (which does kill Legionella). Britain & Ireland however stubbornly refuse to employ these alternative methods. Why? Simple, chlorine is cheap, but only if you don’t factor in the cost of the health issues it contributes to.
So is there any good news regarding chlorine in your home’s water. Well, yes… due to its reactive nature, it is very easy to remove. Most home water filter systems will remove 99%+ of the free chlorine in the water, leaving your water safe and bringing peace of mind to those using it
Carbon block, granular activated carbon (GAC), KDF, Active Ceramic and reverse osmosis filters will all remove chlorine; often such media are used in combination in filter cartridges for greatest effect..(Only stand-alone sediment filters will not do so.)
If you are looking to achieve a healthy lifestyle and are on a budget, probably the best improvement you can make in your life is to install a shower filter. Inexpensive to purchase & maintain and easy to fit (you can even take them with you on holiday) this is the filter that can have the most immediate effect for improving your health with the added benefit of providing softer skin & healthier hair.
The most cost effective form of healthcare is prevention.