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Chlorine in our water, Good or Bad?

The use of chlorine in water systems began in the late 19th century as a way to combat diseases like cholera and typhoid and it proved quite effective. As the levels of such diseases dropped, municipal water systems started to add more and more of the powerful disinfectant into the water. Chlorine is an excellent combatant against many parasites and disease-causing pathogens because of its harsh nature. Unfortunately, Chlorine is also a poison. Just as its harshness attacks pathogens and parasites, it attacks delicate body tissues when breathed or absorbed through the skin. Also, Researchers have now linked chlorine in drinking water to higher incidences of bladder, rectal and breast cancers. Reportedly chlorine, once in water, interacts with organic compounds to create trihalomethanes (THMs) which when ingested encourage the growth of free radicals that can destroy or damage vital cells in the body. 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. A recent study conducted in Hartford, Connecticut found that women with breast cancer have 50-60 percent higher levels of organochlorines (chlorine byproducts) in their breast tissue than cancer-free women.
“ Ottawa (CP)- A new federal analysis concludes that chlorinated drinking water may pose a cancer risk to humans, particularly the risk of bladder cancer. The report by the Laboratory Center for Disease Control, made public yesterday, is based on an exhaustive review of dozens of studies carries out over recent years in Canada and abroad. The review has already spurred the Federal-Provincial Drinking Water Committee to re-examine existing standards for levels of chlorine by-products (CBP’s). Despite the undisputed benefit of chlorination in controlling infectious diseases, the epidemiological studies indicate an elevated incidence of bladder cancer among those who have been exposed to chlorinated drinking water for long periods. ‘ If you put those two lines of evidence together I would say it comes out as a probable link (between chlorinated water and cancer),’ said Health Department expert Donald Wigle, who wrote the review. He said a task force would test drinking water in hundreds of communities across Canada to determine precisely the current concentrations of chlorine by-products… Wigle said consumers could protect themselves from the risk by using household water filters. ” – Chlorinated Drinking Water Linked to Cancer, Toronto Star, Nov. 21, 1999
Unfortunately, buying bottled water is not a solution. Besides being expensive, many brands of bottled water come from public municipal water sources that are often treated with chlorine.
“Individuals who consume chlorinated drinking water have an elevated risk of cancer of the bladder, stomach, pancreas, kidney and rectum as well as Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” – Dr. Michael J. Plewa
“Chlorine is the greatest crippler and killer of modern times. While it prevented epidemics of one disease, it was creating another. Two decades ago, after the start of chlorinating our drinking water in 1904, the epidemic of heart trouble, cancer and senility began”
– Saginaw Hospital, J.M. Prince, MD
While most of us easily recognize the effect of chlorine on the taste and health of drinking and cooking water, but we don’t think much about the water we bathe in everyday. Even if you can’t detect its pungent odor, chlorine may be a hidden menace in your shower. When showering, the heat of the water causes pores to expand and these enlarged pores absorb chlorine instantly. Chlorine can leave skin feeling dry and itchy and leave hair dry, brittle, and prone to dandruff. It can even change your hair color. Chlorine can cause or further aggravate rashes and other skin irritations and leaves eyes feeling sore and itchy. Besides the damaging effects on skin and hair, chlorine can cause health problems when inhaled. Inhaling shower water also allows exposure to volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Combined with chlorine, these chemicals can be incredibly dangerous to the delicate tissues in the lungs. The hot water and confined nature of a shower vaporizes chlorine and VOCs and this chemical vapor is then taken into the lungs. Inhalation of these chemical vapors cause great problems for asthmatics, and can cause similar lung and sinus problems even for those with healthy respiratory systems. In fact, inhaling chemical-laced steam during a shower actually provides more exposure to dangerous chemicals than drinking that very same water! One estimate is that a bather can be exposed to as much water pollution during a 20-minute hot shower as by drinking two litres of tap water per day.
A recent study conducted by Cristina Villaneuva of the Municipal Institute of Medical Research in Barcelona found that when THM’s are absorbed through the skin and into the lungs, they hold stronger carcinogenic properties because they aren’t detoxified through the liver. Villaneuva and her team surveyed 1,219 individuals with bladder cancer and 1,271 control individuals without the disease, polling them about their exposure to chlorinated water, including their bathing, swimming and tap water drinking habits. People who live in households with more than 49 micrograms per liter of THM were at double the risk of bladder cancer versus households that have below 8 micrograms per liter of THM. In industrialized countries, the common level is 50 micrograms per liter, the researchers note. The researchers also found that use of swimming pools increased the risk by 57 percent and that people who drank chlorinated water held a 35 percent greater risk. Taking long showers and bathing also increases the risk in households that has water with higher levels of THM.
“Taking long hot showers is a health risk, according to research presented …in Anaheim, California, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Showers – and to a lesser extent baths – lead to a greater exposure to toxic chemicals contained in water supplies than does drinking the water. The chemicals evaporate out of the water and are inhaled. They can also spread through the house and be inhaled by others. House holders can receive 6 to 100 times more of the chemical by breathing the air around showers and bath than they would by drinking the water.” – Ian Anderson, NEW SCIENTIST, 18 September 1996
If you have concerns about the chlorine in your family’s household and drinking water there are affordable solutions. You can remove harmful chlorine from your household water supply with a water softener that has a carbon filter. and you can also remove chlorine and other contaminants from your drinking water with a reverse osmosis drinking water system.
Purisoft Water Solutions also offers a product bundle featuring the Chlor-a-Soft water softener paired with a 5-stage Reverse Osmosis drinking water system at a very affordable, competitive price.