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      How Safe is Your Drinking Water?  >  Contaminants Resulting from Municipal Additives  >  Chlorine

Contaminants Resulting from Municipal Additives - Chlorine

Disinfection is an important part of the water treatment process and is almost uniformly used in water treatment plants throughout the world. The purposes of disinfection are to kill or inactivate pathogens in drinking water and create a residual level in finished water to prevent the regrowth of bacteria and other pathogens.

Chlorine has been widely used as a primary disinfectant in drinking water for nearly a century. Its usefulness as a disinfectant was first discovered in 1910 when cholera and typhoid rates fell dramatically as a result of water chlorination (Christman, 1998). Chlorine is incredibly effective at killing and/or inactivating pathogens. Chlorine’s harshness, part of its disinfecting power, can be quite harmful to the human body.

Chlorine, when ingested in drinking water, can cause eye, nose, and sinus irritation as well as stomach problems. It also causes a bad taste in drinking water. The true, insidious nature of chlorine lies in its potential as a vapor. Chlorine has a much lower boiling point than water, and thus vaporizes much more quickly than water. When used while cooking, chlorine can vaporize quickly and infiltrate the air. Chlorine inhalation is a leading cause of asthma. Showering in chlorinated water can magnify the effects of chlorine inhalation, due to the enclosed nature of shower stalls and the amount of time spent breathing concentrated chlorine vapors when showering.

Chlorine also creates several byproducts when combined with water. Chlorine byproducts are ingested in drinking water, and are much more dangerous than chlorine itself. These byproducts, leading causes of cancer, are discussed in further detail on the following page.

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How Safe is Your Drinking Water?
• Introduction - The Value of Drinking Water
• Groundwater and Surface Water
• Herbicides and Insecticides - History & Occurrence
• Herbicides and Insecticides - Specific Chemicals and Health Effects
• Nitrate
• Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
• Chlorine
• Chlorine Byproducts
• Fluoride - Recent Discoveries
• Fluoride - Adverse Health Effects
• Lead
• Mercury and Arsenic
• Bacteria and Viruses
• Protozoa
• Human and Animal Feces
• Conclusion - The Importance of Drinking Filtered Water
• References
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