Chlorine in Drinking Tap Water – Is it Really Safe?

Chlorine is a bleaching and oxidizing agent as well as a strong disinfectant. For many years it has been used as a disinfecting agent especially in tap water.

Chlorine has been in use (to disinfect water) since way back in the 1890s.

Its ability to prevent pandemics of waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid has made this chemical the most preferred choice for disinfecting water.

But with the available cutting-edge technology in 2019, do you think there is a better way to make drinking water safe besides chlorine? Let’s find out why chlorine is added to tap water and if there are side effects linked to it.

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Chlorine in Tap Water – Is It Safe?

Why is there Chlorine in Tap Water?

Before we explain the reason why there is chlorine in tap water, we should first know what this element really is. So, what is chlorine?

Chlorine is one of many elements found in nature. In its pure form, this element appears as green gas. This should tell that it is added to tap water for the purpose of disinfecting it through multiple forms like liquid, gas or dry calcium. This brings us to the question as to why there is chlorine in tap water.

You must understand that water contains hundreds or thousands of microorganisms such as parasites, bacteria, viruses, and even contaminants.

Therefore, the addition of chlorine to water plays a critical role in ensuring that your drinking water is safe. This is because this element has the ability to kill most of the contaminants found in water.

The chemical element of chlorine is responsible for attacking slime coatings, cell walls, and shells. This explains clearly how this disinfectant destroys contaminants.

Also, it prevents the spread of pathogens through additional reproduction. Certainly, chlorine plays quite an important role in ensuring that your tap water is safe for consumption.

In its natural state, chlorine is a greenish gas. But its unique structure makes it the most preferred element to disinfect water in several ways.

To begin with, this element is added to tap water in the form of dry calcium hypochlorite, as chlorine gas or liquid sodium hypochlorite solution such as bleach. Regardless of the method used in adding chlorine to the water, it simply works to eliminate harmful contaminants.

Is Chlorine Safe for Human Consumption?

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Is Chlorine Safe for Human Consumption?

Numerous studies have shown that drinking or using water with small quantities of chlorine is not harmful as it was previously thought.

Instead, drinking water with the correct amount of chlorine element is beneficial to you because it plays a significant role in protecting you against the outbreak of waterborne diseases.

In a nutshell, chlorine ensures that your drinking water is safe and does not cause harmful health complications to you.

One thing you need to understand is that your water company is highly concerned about your health. In this regard, the company goes the extra mile to maintain the best quality of water for consumption.

So, the company monitors your water on a regular basis for you to get the best quality and safe drinking water.

Some people are somehow sensitive to chemicals or changes taking place in their environment, and this should be treated as a major concern to their well-being. Such individuals with health concerns are advised to seek medical intervention from the relevant healthcare professionals before consulting with their local health departments.

For that reason, those likely to be affected with chlorinated water will be advised on the alternative source of water or given some medications that will help contain the situation.

Another major concern about the use of chlorine and its safety is during dialysis among specific people. At the time dialysis is performed a lot of water is used to get rid of waste products from the patient’s blood.

Therefore, dialysis centers should take the responsibility of treating water to reduce or remove all disinfectants such as chloramine and chlorine in readiness for dialysis.

Also, home dialysis users need to consult their physician on how they can properly treat water before use.

Unless there are other known complications with specific people, chlorine in water is safe for human consumption. This is possible only if the correct amount of this element is used in drinking water.

That is why water companies monitor the levels of chlorine added to water in order to ensure that they are safe for humans.

Is Chlorine Absorbed by Skins While Showering?

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Is Chlorine Absorbed by Skins While Showering?

This should come as shocking news rather than a surprise to you. Yes, it’s true that chlorine gets absorbed by your skin while showering. Should this scare you?

Much to your surprise, your body absorbs some amounts of chlorine when you are taking a shower. As it seems, those relaxing showers you are fond of maybe hazardous and detrimental to your health.

Studies on side effects of chlorine in water have been carried out for more than a decade and the findings are really shocking. As a result, scientists have come to a unanimous conclusion that chlorine has some significant health risks.

In other cases, scientists have clearly pointed out that there is a direct link between serious illnesses in humans and chlorine intake.

Inasmuch as scores of people still believe that they are safe from the hazardous of drinking chlorinated water, the truth of the matter is that they are still at risk of health complications caused by this element.

This happens so often during the shower or swimming sessions when their bodies absorb chlorine.

Surprisingly, two-thirds of the amount of chlorine absorbed in the body comes from hot showers. If you are still wondering how this happens, then you should be prepared for more surprises. First of all, hot water opens your pores, thus allowing the chlorine to get absorbed by your skin.

Secondly, the steam from hot water has about 50 times the amount of contaminants and chlorine than the water flowing out of your tap.

As such, your body ends up absorbing more chlorine through the skin (and it enters directly into the bloodstream) than the amount you ingest through drinking chlorinated water.

For every problem, there’s always a remedy. So, you can protect yourself and your family from skin absorption of chlorinated water by getting rid of chlorine before it gets out of your showerheads. And the best way of achieving this goal is by use of water filtration systems.

The systems are designed to remove a large percentage of harmful effects brought about by chlorine in the water. This way, you will not be at risk of absorbing chlorine into your body through the skin.

Do I have a Chlorine Allergy?

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Do I have a Chlorine Allergy?

You cannot get allergic to chlorine as many people think but you can only be sensitive or develop a reaction against it.

Does sensitive or reaction to chlorine imply that you should stop using chlorinated water?

The answer is no, instead, you need to get diagnosed to know the cause of your sensitivity before getting the right treatment.

Most people think that they are allergic to chlorine when in the real sense they are not. What appears as an allergy might be exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) or underlying asthma-related problems. Perhaps your runny nose might be as a result of other underlying allergic reactions.

Reactions from chlorine may include hives (itchy bumps) or red skin. For your information, this isn’t an allergy but it could be an irritant dermatitis (such as that for a chemical burn), resulting from hypersensitivity to chlorine (or any other natural irritant).

Even though chlorine may not be allergic to you, it may also contribute to your allergic reactions. This element is known to cause irritations as well as sensitizing your respiratory tract.

Several studies have shown that swimming in chlorinated pools frequently or exposure to cleaning agents containing chlorine may be somehow risky. This is because there are chances of developing asthma or other respiratory allergies in both adults and adolescents.

On the contrary, studies show that the use of chlorine bleach is actually the best remedy for allergies caused by household allergens like dust mites and others. The chlorine bleach, however, works by inactivating these allergens.

But if you find out that you are experiencing a chlorine sensitivity or allergy, it is time to visit an allergist near you. Through testing, the allergist can accurately diagnose your symptoms and then help you get the right treatment in time.

Safe Chlorine Levels in Drinking Water

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), safe chlorine levels in drinking water should be 4 parts per million (or 4mg/l) or less. It is at this level that all harmful contaminants are removed, making water safe for consumption.

Also, EPA has come up with a set of enforceable regulations for every disinfectant added to drinking water. This regulation is known as the maximum residual disinfectant level (MRDL). Actually, these are safe levels in drinking water set aside for different types of chlorine that need to be added to the source of water.

Below is a table showing different safety levels of chlorine that should be added to drinking water:

Disinfectant MRDL Level
Chloramine 4.0 mg/L (4ppm as a yearly average)
Chlorine 4.0mg/L (4ppm as  yearly average)
Chlorine Dioxide 0.8 mg/L (800ppb as a yearly average)

Research on Chlorine and Cancer

Researchers have linked chlorinated water with colorectal cancers. Most of the published reports on this subject matter have shown the increased cases of colorectal cancers among those exposed to chlorinated tap water or any chemical derivatives of chlorination.

However, estrogen hormone plays a dual positive role in reducing the possibilities or risks associated with colorectal cancers. Estrogen accomplishes this task by reducing drastically the entrance while increasing the excretion of such chemicals.

Estrogen is known to inhibit the absorption and enhancing the excretion of all xenobiotics including their metabolites through the bile. This hormone possesses the anti-hypo methylation properties, especially when exposed to the genomic DNA.

In this case, the hormone will reduce the plasma levels associated with homocysteine.

Currently, colorectal carcinomas have been ranked the third most known tumor affecting both men and women globally. And the likely cause of this life-threatening problem is the long-term exposure to chlorinated drinking water.

The underlying risk of developing tumors in the colon (large intestines) depends solely on how much someone is exposed to trihalomethanes contained in drinking water disinfectants such as chlorine.

The main risk here is the development and growth of malignant tumors caused by water pollution. This situation is prevalent among those individuals who frequently use chlorinated swimming pools and also in those who shower frequently using chlorinated water.

On the other hand, this problem is common among the avid consumers of foods containing a lot of fat with little or no vegetables and fruits. In fact, it is a serious problem for those who take such diets and use swimming pools most of the time.

Anyway, this risk can be reduced significantly by adding magnesium, calcium and getting rid of iron from drinking water. Another effective way of reducing the risks associated with cancer of the colon is by boiling of drinking water.

Colorectal carcinomas resulting from long exposures to the trihalomethanes found in drinking water are regarded as major causes of colorectal cancers.

This types of carcinomas are rarely diagnosed at the initial stages of colorectal cancer development. Nevertheless, it is important to do the screening for the occurrence of this condition among the susceptible groups of people.

Global DNA hypomethylation comes out as a common factor among the people most likely to develop malignant growth or tumors. However, the levels of the DNA hypomethylation escalate concurrently with the progress of the disease among susceptible persons.

As a result, early screening for the DNA hypomethylation of a specific genome DNA and plasma concentrations of homocysteine will play a significant role in identifying those people who are likely to be at risk.

Researchers have revealed that carcinomas of colon cancer are most common in the world today with a whopping 1.4 million emerging cancer cases diagnosed in 2012 alone. The risk of colorectal cancer increases according to age and is more prevalent in men than in women.

Furthermore, there is an association between the development of cancer of the colon and consumption of chlorinated water.

The most common contaminants found in chlorinated water include Chloroform, chlorodibromomethane, Bromodichloromethane, and Bromoform.

Among those mentioned, Chloroform is actually a facilitator cancer development in human beings. This is all based on data derived from animal studies.

For instance, chloroform contact by two species of rats at two different locations initiated the growth of tumors.

A direct gastric administration of the same chloroform via the stomach tube resulted in hepatocellular carcinoma in both sexes Of mice. Also, it resulted in renal epithelial tumors in male rats and mice.

There is no known cause and effect relationship between human cancer cases and exposure to chloroform. But there is an association between the development of certain types of cancers and exposure to water contaminated with chloroform.

On the other hand, drinking water that is already contaminated with bromodichloromethane can increase the frequencies of carcinomas and hepatocellular in males. At the same time, it can cause hepatocellular adenomas among females.

A number of epidemiological studies have so far indicated a possible association between increased cases of colorectal cancers and drinking chlorinated water.

But there’s no reason for panic because water companies take all necessary precautionary measures to ensure that your drinking water has the correct levels of chlorine.

How to Remove Chlorine from Water?

Sometimes you may require chlorine-free water for drinking. Therefore, you will have to think of the best ways of removing chlorine from your water to eliminate the distinctive chlorine flavor and aroma. So, how do you manage to remove this chemical from water?

By Boiling

Heating or boiling your water will speed the process of removing chlorine from it through evaporation.

This is the easiest way of removing chlorine because it is gaseous at room temperature and an increase in temperature will definitely make its molecules to escape thus leaving you with chlorine-free water.

But this technique will only eliminate chlorine and not other impurities such as chloramines.

By Filtration

Here, you are required to run water through your filter containing activated charcoal in its particle or granular form.

The carbon element in granulated charcoal will remove chlorine by adsorption whereby the molecular bonding of chlorine ions will be left on the surface of the charcoal while chlorine-free water is filtered through.

Apart from using charcoal to filter out chlorine, you may as well use another method known as kinetic degradation fluxion. In this method, the copper-zinc alloy is used to convert chlorine to chloride via the oxidation process.

Conclusion

Chlorine has a reputation for being the best element used in water treatment. This chemical plays a crucial role as a disinfectant by eliminating microorganisms in water, thus making it safe and healthy for drinking or other uses.

Without it, waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever would wreak havoc on humans.

Despite all these positive attributes of chlorine when used in drinking water, there is also the negative side of this chemical. Apparently, chlorine is associated with risks of colorectal cancers if an individual is exposed to it for an extended period.

The good news is, water companies are using the recommended levels to ensure that you stay safe and free of waterborne diseases as well as staying healthy throughout.

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This is George, the Aquaman, editor at AquaMantra. I'm a water quality analyst by profession, and used to work at one of the largest water bottler company.
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