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What’s in My Water: Chlorine

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We typically think of chlorine being in pool water. It acts as a disinfectant, so we use it to eliminate germs where we swim. But without a proper filtration system, chlorine is often closer than we realize. It’s not just in swimming pools—you can also find chlorine in your tap water, shower water, and…your family’s drinking water.

Our municipal drinking water is chlorinated to destroy bacteria. It’s basically the same concept as using chlorine in pools. Most water treatment plants add it to source water during the disinfection stage of the water treatment process. They measure the disinfectant (chlorine) so that even when the treated water leaves the plant and enters the distribution system, a level of it remains to prevent new bacteria growth.

Unfortunately, this means that the “treated” water flowing out of our faucets contains a bona fide disinfectant. Unless you have a home system that removes chlorine, your family is exposed to chlorinated water every day.

About Chlorinated Tap Water

Chlorine is added to our water with good intentions (i.e., to kill the germy microbes). Unfortunately, leaving chlorine in our bathing and drinking water has a whole new set of problems. The EPA has drinking water regulations for disinfectants, but there are serious health concerns when these chlorine levels are surpassed. Chlorine can irritate the eyes and nose, cause stomach discomfort, and even lead to anemia when ingested in excess.

Some of the more immediate problems with chlorine as a disinfectant are its unpleasant taste and odor. Chlorinated drinking water has a lingering effect on the taste our coffee and tea. Plus, the chlorine odor in our municipal water tends to be stronger during the colder months.

Other Problems with Chlorine

We’re also exposed to the disinfectant in our bath water. Our skin absorbs extra amounts of chlorine and our lungs inhale vaporized chlorine when we shower in chlorinated water. Chlorine is also the culprit behind dry, brittle hair and dry, itchy skin. So much for getting clean!

To top it off, opponents of chlorination also reference chlorine’s tendency to react with organic compounds found in our water supply. When this occurs, trihalomethanes (THMs) form. These chemical compounds have been linked to health issues like asthma, eczema, heart disease, as well as higher rates for miscarriages and birth defects. You can find more information about THMs on the EPA’s webpage “Disinfection Byproducts in Drinking Water.”

While chlorine is a great disinfectant at the water treatment plant, chlorine-free water is the clear winner when it comes to feeling good about the water your family is using. Removing chlorine from your home’s water supply is better for your overall health, helps purify your water’s taste and odor, and protects your hair and skin from drying out in the shower. Keep chlorine in the pool (where it belongs!) and your tap water will be at its finest—truly refreshing and clean.

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