Why must chlorine be removed from drinking water before ingestion?

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What is chlorine?

Chlorine is a chemical element with symbol Cl. It is a poisonous pale-green gas and is one of the halogens found in group seven in the Periodic Table. It was discovered in 1774 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, but it was Sir Humphrey Davy who gave it its name. It has an unpleasant, suffocating odour. It forms part of table salt as the chloride ion. Chlorine is a strong oxidant and is used in bleaching. It is inexpensive and a very effective water disinfectant. Chlorine gas with formula Cl2 combines readily with other elements. At a temperature of 10oC one liter of water can dissolve 3,1 liters of gaseous chlorine.

Chlorine became the first killing agent to be employed during World War I. On 22 April 1915 Germany dropped 180 tons of chlorine gas on opposing trenches in Northern France. This killed 5 000 men and scorched the lungs of 15 000 French and British troops. After this attack chlorine was used by both sides as a chemical weapon. During the Iraq War insurgents used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon to create widespread panic.

Uses

Chlorine gas is a powerful oxidizer and is used in bleaches and to disinfect drinking water and cleaning swimming pools. It is also used in paper manufacturing, insecticides, paints, petroleum, plastics, solvents, textiles and medicine.

Warning

In 1904 chlorine became the standard method of water disinfection. It is not only very effective, but also cheap. Initially, chlorine was considered a wondrous blessing. Prior to its use, millions of people suffered from waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and other pathogens. In the 1960s it became evident that chlorine, and chlorine by-products formed in water (trihalomethanes and dioxins) have a carcinogenic effect on human health. Chlorine is, essentially, bleach. Chlorinated tap water is nothing else but a mild bleach solution which is not healthy to drink.

Everybody wants to write on white paper and swim in bacteria-free water, but few of us realize the adverse effect chlorine has on life. Residual effects from chlorine are becoming a health hazard. The American Public Health Association urged the American paper industry to stop using chlorine. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found dioxin (a toxic by-product of chlorine) to be 300,000 times more potent as a carcinogen than DDT.

The paper industry uses large quantities of chlorine. It is first used to break down the lignine that holds the wood fibers together. Chlorine is then used to bleach the paper to make it white. The wastewater containing dioxins is then dumped and contaminates ground and surface water. Dioxins are highly toxic and carcinogenic. First fish become contaminated, contaminating animals and people eating the fish. When dioxins and other toxic chemicals are consumed, they tend to accumulate in fatty tissues. These contaminants are also endocrine disruptors (hormone disruptors) because they mimic estrogen.

Reverse osmosis is the only filtration system that will remove not only chlorine but also all pharmaceutical residues.

For more information please contact: Gary Levy


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