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The Truth About Chlorine in Drinking Water - Is Your Drinking Water Poisoning You?


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Almost all people are aware that chlorine is present in water sources due to the treatment process that is supposed to get rid of harmful chemicals and substances. However, there are also dangers posed by the element especially once it reaches high levels. Almost 1 million people become sick and die from waterborne diseases every year so careful considerations should be done quickly.

Chlorine Definition

Chlorine is a chemical element described as a poisonous corrosive greenish-yellow gas which is 2 1/2 times heavier than air and has a suffocating odor. It belongs to the element group called halogens which combine with metals to form compounds known as halides. Chlorine is commercially produced by running an electric current through salt water. The process also creates hydrogen, free chlorine and sodium hydroxide. Compressing the gas changes chlorine into liquid which is then combined with drinking water and other sources to kill bacteria.

Chlorine in drinking water is the most widely used disinfectant in the United States for more than 6 decades. It is the primary drinking water disinfectant in the world but potential health problems have risen from studies by researchers which may stem from chemical by-products that arise from the water from chlorine use.

Chlorine Reaction

Chlorine reacts chemically with any organic matter in any body of water that it comes in contact with. Natural waters always contain a number of organic matter and several by-products can then form such as THMs or trihalomethans like chloroform. Experts suggest that treatment of chlorine with ammonia results to ozonation which reduces the level of THMs in water. Chloramine is found to be beneficial when mixed with chlorine as it stops halomethane formation plus reduces the odor and taste that arise from formed chlorophenolic compounds. Chloramine in some cases is used as a substitute for chlorine but is not very effective against Giardia cysts and viruses.

Cancer Risks

The use of chlorine in drinking water focuses mainly on eliminating pathogens. However, it may also contribute to the development of cancer. The risks were associated with chemical contamination from by-products produced by chlorination. Microbial contamination may be evident but the reaction with organic matter in water also results to dangerous carcinogenic THMs or Trihalomethanes.

Water can be transformed into its purest form according to some experts but recent discoveries like drugs found in drinking water were not treated as well by chlorine. People constantly exposed to trace amounts of various drugs also increase their risk of developing cancer in the future. New technologies and developments were required to relieve the growing problem.

Measuring Chlorine

Chlorine should be measured at different points from the water supply to the tap. It is recommended that chlorine amounts only exist in dosages that provide enough disinfection that produces results. Some benefits would be reduction in corrosion and material deterioration since too much chlorine can damage stainless steel. Less chlorine is recommended for material compatibility. Humans and animals also benefit more at a maximum contaminant level of 4 ppm.

Chlorine in drinking water samples need to be tested immediately. Take samples from the proportioner outlet as well as the drain valve. Concentration can decrease quickly since chlorine in water is not stable. Factors like sunlight and other light sources can hasten chlorine reduction. Do not expose samples to agitation and excessive light and do not store samples to be analyzed later.

Peter Patterson specializes on water purification and writes for The Truth About Water Filters, a site that offers consumer guidance on cholorine in the drinking water and how you can have clean and safe water in your home.


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