Before the 1900s, rivers, lakes, and streams were the proverbial dumping grounds for sewage and waste. The growth of cities and awareness in the transmission of diseases like typhoid, cholera, and yellow fever, led to a need and demand for treatment of the contamination of these water sources.
The first town to treat its water supply with chlorine to kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms was Maidstone, England, in 1897. This idea spread to the United States, and in 1908, Jersey City, New Jersey, supplied chlorinated water to a large U.S. municipality for the first time. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regard the disinfection of the drinking water supply as one of the most significant advances in public health.
Using chlorine rapidly reduced the spread of disease and other water-borne ailments, making it easier for cities to purify their drinking water and keep their residents safe.
What Is Chlorination?
When water comes straight from the source, such as lakes and wells, it can be contaminated with germs and can make people sick. Water can also get contaminated as it travels through piping to taps. To prevent contamination, water companies add a disinfectant to kill the disease-causing germs. The most common type of disinfection is chlorination, which is when chlorine or chloramine is added to drinking water to kill unwanted bacteria and pathogens.
Most communities use either chlorine or chloramine, but some places switch back and forth between the two at different times of the year. Some water systems, like community wells, use groundwater and do not add a disinfectant. You can obtain a copy of your utility’s consumer confidence report if you’re curious whether there is a disinfectant in your water, what kind they are using, or how your utility company is following the rules on disinfection.
Is It Safe to Drink Water with Chlorine?
If regulations are followed, then yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the amount of chlorine in drinking water to levels considered safe for human consumption and are unlikely to cause adverse long-term health effects.
Is There a Downside to Drinking Chlorinated Water?
Your water company regularly monitors the quality to ensure they are providing you with safe drinking water. However, some people are more sensitive than others to chemicals. Researchers have linked chlorine in drinking water to some diagnoses of fractal, bladder, and breast cancers. Chlorine has also been attributed to problems with the immune and reproductive systems and heart attacks.
It has been reported that once chlorine is in water, it interacts with organic compounds to create trihalomethanes (THMs), also referred to as disinfection by-products (DBPs), which encourage the growth of free radicals that can damage or destroy viral cells in the body once ingested. Individuals with health concerns should seek medical advice from a healthcare provider.
Can You Bathe and Shower with Chlorinated Water?
You absolutely can. Chlorine cannot enter the body through your skin. Though if you have sensitive skin, you could experience skin irritation, but this is rare. There is more chlorine in swimming pools than in the water coming into your home.
Can Chlorine Affect My Pets?
The small amount of chlorine in household water is not enough to affect dogs, cats, birds, or other mammals and is safe to use for bathing your pets and watering your plants. However, unlike these specific pets and humans, chlorine and chloramine are toxic to aquatic animals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles because they absorb water directly into their bloodstream. Ask your local pet store for methods and products to remove the chlorine for these types of pets.
Are There Other Options for Disinfection Besides Chlorine?
There are several other options, but each one has tradeoffs, and some still require the addition of chlorine or chloramine.
- Some communities switch between chlorine and chloramine, but others choose only to use chloramine. Chloramines form lower levels of regulated DBPs than chlorine. Still, they can create other, non-regulated DBPs, increase nitrate formation, and risk corrosion in the water distribution system.
- Ozone kills contaminants and has no taste, but it can also create other DBPs and doesn’t protect the water distribution system. Therefore, chlorine or chloramine still has to be added to the water to protect it from the treatment plant to the tap.
- Ultraviolet (UV) light does not form DBPs. It is effective in clear water but, like ozone, does not protect the water distribution system, so chlorine or chloramine is added to protect the water.
Chlorine and chloramines are the most common and effective ways to remove contaminants from municipal water. However, some people are still bothered by its taste and smell.
Ways to Remove the Taste and Smell of Chlorine
- Put a pitcher of water, uncovered, in the refrigerator and let it sit for a few hours. This will allow the chlorine smell to leave the water.
- Use cold water when you need something to drink. Cold water has less taste and smell and is less likely to absorb lead and copper from the plumbing.
- Use a filter, either a water pitcher or a whole-house filtration system, to remove the smell and taste of chlorine from your water. These are the most practical and adequate ways to give you peace of mind that your drinking water tastes and smells free of chlorine.
The Science of Water
If you’ve decided a whole-house water filtration system is the most efficient way to solve your water contamination problems — congratulations! You are taking the correct steps toward having clean, pure, great-tasting water.
The next step is to contact The Science of Water for your free water test and estimate. We use Puronics systems, a manufacturer of water treatment systems that have been tested and approved by the EPA. It also uses SilverShield® Protection NASA Technology! Our water filtration systems operate on household water pressure and do not use electricity, keeping your bills down.
The slim profile of our products ensures they fit easily under the average sink, hidden out of the way, taking up little space.
You, your family, and your pets deserve to experience high-quality water that tastes good and is good for the environment. To learn more about our products and services, visit our website or contact us by phone at (352) 745-7070 or (904) 580-0000, and let’s get started on your path to clean water today!
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