The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about Chlorine
Chlorine was added to public water for the first time in the U.S. in 1908. By adding small amounts of chlorine to the water the majority of bacteria could be killed. The result was a dramatic decline in regular outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever. The use of chlorine today as a disinfectant for public water is near universal. It is also used in higher concentrations at public pools, spas, and as laundry bleach with results that are perceived as largely beneficial. In the short term, that may be true, but not over the long haul.
Because chlorine is so commonly present in the everyday water we consume, we tend to accept the negative side effects because they are so prevalent.
- Dry skin
- Dry Hair
- Poor Taste
- Acrid Odor
Unfortunately, the long-term affects of even low levels of chlorine in water are downright dangerous. Chlorine in everyday drinking water produces carcinogenic traces. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that it has been linked to cancer of the colon, rectum, bladder, breast, esophagus, larynx and of Hodgkin's Disease, not to mention heart disease as well. The increase in these conditions was recognized as far back as the 1920s. This shouldn't surprise us. When you smell laundry bleach you don't need to read the label to know it's poisonous. Over time, even minute doses can be lethal.
Because it is present in all public water supplies, it is up to us to remove it in our own homes. At the very least, you should filter the water you drink. Since studies indicate that exposure through inhalation or absorption through the skin can be several times higher than even drinking, it is prudent to filter the water for your entire home not just at the point of use, but at the point of entry.
Listed below are just some of the many published reports on the long term health risks associated with ingesting water laced with chlorine.
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SCIENCE NEWS, Vol. 130
"The cause of arteriosclerosis and resulting heart attacks and strokes is none other than the ubiquitous chlorine in our drinking water."
IS YOUR WATER SAFE TO DRINK?
"Skin absorption of contaminant has been underestimated and ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure."
CORONARIES, CHOLESTEROL & CHLORINE
—Dr. J.M Price, M.D.
"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 present epidemic of heart trouble, cancer, and senility began."
"The cause of atherosclerosis and resulting heart attack and strokes is none other than ubiquitous chlorine in our drinking water."
U.S. Council of Environmental Quality
"Cancer risks among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine."
18 Sept. 1986
"Studies indicate suspect chemicals can also be inhaled and absorbed through the skin during showering and bathing." "Ironically, even the chlorine widely used to disinfect water produces Carcinogenic traces."
"Though 7 out of 10 Americans drink chlorinated water, its safety over long term is uncertain."
"Drinking chlorinated water may as much as double the risk of Bladder Cancer, which strikes 40,000 people a year."
U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT
July 29, 1991
Is Your Water Safe — The Dangerous State of Your Water
"A long hot shower can be dangerous. The toxic chemicals are inhaled in high concentrations."
—Dr. John Andelman, Ph.D.
"On one hand, chlorination has freed civilization form the constant dangers of waterborne epidemics. On the other hand in the mid-70's scientists discovered that chlorination could create carcinogens in water."
"80% of the population drinks chlorinated water."
"There was a higher incidence of cancer of the esophagus, rectum, breast, and larynx and of Hodgkin's Disease among those drinking chlorinated surface waters."
"Volatile organics can evaporate from water in a shower or bath."
"Conservative calculations indicate that inhalation exposure can be as significant as exposure from drinking the water, that is, one can be exposed to just as much by inhalation and/or dermal absorption."
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
—Dr. Haline Brown
"Showering is suspected as the primary cause of elevated levels of chloroform in nearly every home because of the chlorine in the water."
CHLORINE AND YOUR SHOWER
"Taking long hot showers is a health risk, according to research presented last week in Anaheim California, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society--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"
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
—Dr. Lance Wallace
"A Professor of Water Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh claims that exposure to vaporized chemicals in the water supplies through showering, bathing, and inhalation is 100 times greater than through drinking water."
"As chlorine is added to kill pathogenic microorganisms, the highly reactive chlorine combines with fatty acids and carbon fragments to form a variety of toxic compounds, which comprise about 30% of the chlorination by-products."
"During the mid-1970's monitoring efforts began to identify widespread toxic contamination of the nation's drinking water supplies, epidemiological studies began to suggest a link between ingestion of toxic chemicals in the water and elevated cancer mortality risks. Since those studies were completed a variety of additional studies have strengthened the statistical connection between consumption of toxins in water and elevated cancer risks. Moreover, this basic concern has been heightened by other research discoveries."
CHEMISTRY AND CONTROL OF MODERN CHLORINATION
—Dr. A.T. Palin, Ph.D., OBE
"Chlorine gas was despicably used during WWI. When the war was over, the use of chlorine was diverted to poisoning germs in our drinking water. All water supplies throughout the country were chlorinated. The combination of chlorine (when in drinking water) and animal fats results in arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, and death."
WATER CAN UNDERMINE YOUR HEALTH
—Dr. N.W. Walker, D.S.
"Chlorine is the greatest cripple and killer of the 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 1908, the present epidemic of the heart trouble, cancer and senility began."
CHLORINATED WATER AFFECTS
—Epidemiology 1998-9 (1)pp 21-28, 29-35
Lifetime consumption of chlorinated tap water can more than double the risk of bladder and rectal cancers in certain individuals, two new studies conclude. Both studies examined the lifetime water-consumption patterns, diets and lifestyles of over 2,200 middle-aged and elderly Iowans suffering from either bladder, colon, or rectal cancers. Those profiles were then compared with those of a pool of nearly 2,000 healthy 'controls'.
Recent research has suggested that chlorine reacts with naturally-found organic compounds in water to form what the study authors call "chlorination byproducts." They say many of these byproducts are "mutagenic and/or carcinogenic." The first study found that smoking men who drank chlorinated tap water for more than 40 years faced double the risk of bladder cancer compared with smoking men who drank nonchlorinated water. Women who drank chlorinated water, on the other hand, had only slightly raised risks for bladder cancers, regardless of (their) smoking status.
The second study found that rates for rectal cancers for both sexes escalated with duration of consumption of chlorinated water. Individuals on low-fiber diets who also drank chlorinated water for over 40 years more than doubled their risk for rectal cancer, compared with lifetime drinkers of nonchlorinated water.
Similar differences were also found between the risk patterns of chlorinated-water drinkers who exercised at least once a week, and those who exercised just once a month, or less. Experts have long recommended regular exercise as one means of reducing one's risk of rectal and other cancers. The study found no link between the long-term consumption of chlorinated tap water and the incidence of colon cancer. This was not surprising, the researchers explain, since colon tumors have very different patterns of genesis and development compared with rectal tumors.
They speculate that the source of chlorinated tap water may help determine its potential to promote cancers. Since surface water (such as that found in lakes and reservoirs) usually contains higher concentrations of organic compounds, the study authors say it is also more likely to contain higher levels of (potentially carcinogenic) chlorination byproducts, compared with water sourced from deep underground."
HEALTHY WATER FOR A LONGER LIFE
—Dr. Martin Fox
"Known carcinogens are found in drinking water as a direct consequences of the practice of chlorination, a long established public health practice for the disinfection of drinking water."
MUNICIPAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LABORATORY
—Francis T. Mayo, Director
"Chlorine is used almost universally in the treatment of public drinking water because of its toxic effect on harmful bacteria and other waterborne, disease-causing organisms. But there is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that chlorine in drinking water may actually pose greater long-term dangers than those for which it was used to eliminate.
"These effects of chlorine may result from either ingestion or absorption through skin. Scientific studies have linked chlorine and chlorination by-products to cancer of the bladder, liver, rectum, and colon, as well as heart disease, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), anemia, high blood pressure, and allergic reactions. There is also evidence that shows that chlorine can destroy protein in our body and cause adverse effects on skin and hair. The presence of chlorine in the water may also contribute to the formation of chloramines in the water, which can cause taste and odor problems.
"Since chlorine is required by public health regulations to be present in all public drinking water supplies, it is up to the individual to remove it at the point-of-use in the home."
U.S. COUNCIL OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
"Drinking tap water that is chlorinated is hazardous, if not deadly to your health."
HEALTH EFFECTS OF CHLORINE IN DRINKING WATER
"The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO)reports that there are serious deficiencies in water treatment plants in 75% of the states. More than 120 million people (about 50% of the population) may get unsafe water according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council. U.S. Health Officials estimate 900,000 people each year become ill from waterborne disease. The GAO estimates 66% of Safe Drinking Water Act violations are not reported. The contamination of water is directly related to the degree of contamination of our environment. Rainwater flushes airborne pollution from the skies, and then washes over the land before running into the, rivers, aquifers, and lakes that supply our drinking water. Any and all chemicals generated by human activity can and will find their way into water supplies. The chemical element chlorine is a corrosive, poisonous, greenish-yellow gas that has a suffocating odor and is 2-1/2 times heavier than air.
"Chlorine belongs to the group of elements called halogens. The halogens combine with metals to form compounds called halides. Chlorine is manufactured commercially by running an electric current through salt water. This process produces free chlorine, hydrogen, and sodium hydroxide. Chlorine is changed to its liquid form by compressing the gas. The resulting liquid is then shipped. Liquid chlorine is mixed into drinking water and swimming pools to destroy bacteria. Until recently, concerns about drinking water focused on eliminating pathogens. The chlorine used to reduce the risk of infectious disease may account for a substantial portion of the cancer risk associated with drinking water. Chlorination of drinking water was a major factor in the reduction in the mortality rates associated with waterborne pathogens.
"The use of chlorine was believed to be safe. This view is evident in an article, which appeared on the back page of the New York Times. The report stated that with the use of chlorine, "Any municipal water supply can be made as pure as mountain spring water. Chlorination destroys all animal and microbial life, leaving no trace of itself afterwards." This statement reflected opinion accepted until recent years when halogens (organic compounds), such as chloroform, were identified in chlorinated drinking water supplies. Recent surveys show that these compounds are common in water supplies throughout the United States. These concerns about cancer risks associated with chemical contamination from chlorination by-products have resulted in numerous epidemiological studies.
"These studies generally support the notion that by-products of chlorination are associated with increased cancer risks.
"The drinking of chlorinated water has finally been officially linked to an increased incidence of colon cancer. An epidemiologist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities completed a study of colon cancer victims and non-cancer patients and concluded that the drinking of chlorinated water for 15 years or more was conducive to a high rate of colon cancer." Health Freedom News, January/February 1987
"Long-term drinking of chlorinated water appears to increase a person's risk of developing bladder cancer as much as 80%," according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Some 45,000 Americans are diagnosed every year with bladder cancer. St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press, December 17, 1987
"Although concentrations of these carcinogens are low...it is precisely these low levels which cancer scientists believe are responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States." Report Issued By The Environmental Defense Fund.
"Chlorine itself is not believed to be the problem. Scientists suspect that the actual cause of the bladder cancers is a group of chemicals that form as result of reactions between the chlorine and natural substances and pollutants in the water." (organic matter such as leaves and twigs.) St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press, December 17, 1987
"Chlorine was first added to a community water system in 1908 in Chicago and was instrumental in eliminating many types of water-borne disease such as Cholera and Typhoid fever. Prior to chlorination, many major cities had death tolls of 1 in 1000 people from Typhoid alone. Chlorine has been used to disinfect municipal water for over 80 years and has had some positive effects on public health. In the 1970's it was discovered that chlorine, when added to water, forms Trihalomethanes (chlorinated by-products) by combining with certain naturally occurring organic matter such as vegetation and algae. In 1992 the American Journal of Public Health published a report that showed a 15% to 35% increase in certain types of cancer for people who consume chlorinated water. This report also stated that much of these effects were due to showering in chlorinated water. The National Cancer Institute estimates cancer risks for people who consume chlorinated water to be 93% higher than for people who do not. The effects of drinking chlorinated water have been debated for decades. However, most experts now agree that there are some significant risks related to consuming chlorine and chlorinated by-products. (www.waterwarning.com)"