Why is chlorine added to tap water? Do water filters effectively filter it out?
Chlorine is a highly efficient disinfectant, and it is added to public water supplies to kill disease-causing bacteria that the water or its transport pipes might contain.
“Chlorine has been hailed as the savior against cholera and various other water-borne diseases, and rightfully so,” says Steve Harrison, president of water filter maker Environmental Systems Distributing. “Its disinfectant qualities…have allowed communities and whole cities to grow and prosper by providing disease-free tap water to homes and industry.”
The Pros and Cons of Chlorine
But Harrison says that all this disinfecting has not come without a price: Chlorine introduced into the water supply reacts with other naturally-occurring elements to form toxins called trihalomethanes (THMs), which eventually make their way into our bodies. THMs have been linked to a wide range of human health maladies ranging from asthma and eczema to bladder cancer and heart disease. In addition, Dr. Peter Montague of the Environmental Research Foundation cites several studies linking moderate to heavy consumption of chlorinated tap water by pregnant women with higher miscarriage and birth defect rates.
Alternatives to Chlorine
Eliminating water pollution and cleaning up our watersheds are not going to happen overnight, but alternatives to chlorination for water treatment do exist. Dr. Montague reports that several European and Canadian cities now disinfect their water supplies with ozone instead of chlorine.
Contributed by: Our Special Correspondent
City: San Francisco
Date: May 31, 2010