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Chlorine in Drinking Water

     Chlorine never occurs free in the natural world, it is very reactive and humans are almost never exposed to it except in combinations with other elements. As a gas, chlorine is extremely hazardous.  When dissolved in the moist mucous membranes of the nose and throat, it can cause irreversible damage that can be lethal.  Because of this hazard, chlorine gas is most often manufactured close to where it is used, avoiding risks with transportation.  Chlorine is one of the most highly used chemicals in the chemical industry. A number of products are made from chlorine gas including bleaches for home and industrial use; reactants to produce other chemicals; liquids such as chloroform, trichloroethylene, and perchloroethylene that are used as industrial solvents and in the manufacture of many substances ranging from paints to medicines; drugs and agrochemicals; and plastic products such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It has been estimated that about 80% of all substances used in commerce could not be produced without chlorine as a component or an intermediate.

     One of the biggest effects of chlorine on humans is it's use to disinfect of water. With a booming industrial revolution and rapidly increasing urban populations, epidemic diseases became a major threat. In 1848, cholera appeared in London, England and claimed 14,600 lives within two years and a further 10,600 lives in the epidemic of 1854. The spread of the disease was linked to a contaminated water supply, and control of the disease was challenged by the lack of adequate sewers. This link with contaminated water is of course critical to the spread of diseases which should have led to better designed water and sewage systems, however disease continued to spread through water. More than 50,000 people in North America died of typhoid fever due to contaminated water between 1900 - 1904.  By 1911 the Americans began to use chlorine gas to treat their water. By the 1930s, waterborne diseases were largely eliminated from the cities of developed countries by implementing better water distribution systems and chemical disinfection.  Chemical companies manufacture mega tonnes of chlorine annually, as it is relatively cheap and easy to make.  An electrical current is passed through salt water or melted salt, the electricity splits the salt molecules apart creating chlorine, its a quick and easy chemical to manufacture.  Most of us know chlorine for it's ability to bleach, it is used for removing natural colour from things like cotton and wood pulp, we all know what happens if we add too much bleach when removing stains.  What a lot of people don't realize, is what the spin-offs are are when chlorine is used to make paper and other consumer products.  When wood pulp is bleached, the reactions that take place between the chlorine, lignin (the natural substance a tree has that holds its cellulose fibers together) and the cellulose fibers produce some of the most toxic substances of all.  The most dangerous of these includes a family of 75 different chemicals known as dioxins and a host of other chemicals known as organochlorines.  Dioxins are so deadly that they have been found to be 300,000 times more potent as a carcinogen than DDT (which was banned in the USA in 1992).  And there is no way to cover up the effects that dioxins have on humans and the environment.  Research has clearly linked dioxins to cancer, reproductive disorders, deformities in children, and immune system breakdowns, and dioxins can cause these effects at exposure levels hundreds of thousands of times lower than most other hazardous chemicals.  Now think about what happens when we pump thousands of gallons of chlorine into our drinking water, to make it "safe".  In 1993 the American Public Health Association unanimously passed a resolution urging American industry to stop using chlorine, and as you know, very little was ever done about it.

     One might muse that using chlorine to bleach of paper and making toxic dioxins has nothing to do with putting chlorine to drinking water, but in reality, chlorine is chlorine.  Not only do these dioxins end up in our water, but when chlorine is added to drinking water in an effort to make it "safe", it reacts with the naturally occurring dissolved organic matter to form carcinogenic trihalomethanes (THM).  The national guideline for THMs is 100 Fg/L (or 0.1 ppm) which is the sum of the compounds chloroform, bromodichloromethane, chlorodibromomethane, and bromoform.  Many rural settings have no pretreatment equipment are in place to remove the dissolved organic carbon before adding chlorine.  Chlorine was originally used to remove cholera, typhoid and other nasty infectious agents, but that was back in the 20th Century at the start of the chemical evolution, long before pollution and junk food with little or no nutrition was invented.  Therefore humans have undergone a one-two punch, the water drinking water is chlorinated which makes it carcinogenic, then the nutrition in our food supply is decreased which dramatically lowers the body's immune system.

     Most consumers have believed the lie about chlorine for too long, many don't stop to consider that chlorinated water has been linked with cancer and disease for a long time now.  Most consumers are oblivious to the fact that chlorinated water in their hot shower creates a chloroform gas chamber in their home, yet many people suspect that chemicals are causing disease and premature death.  Chloroform showers are up to 75 times more toxic than drinking chlorinated water.  The heated chloroform vapor is inhaled directly into the lungs and rapidly enters into the blood and the heart.  Because chlorine is relatively cheap in terms of chemicals, for many governments it has become the easy and cheap solution.  However, many European countries banned chlorine long ago and have opted for either ozonating or mechanically purifying their water.  Our government refuses to act upon what it already knows, that chlorine is linked to cancer and disease.  Lets face it, if one province or municipality bans chlorine, it will not look good for the rest of the country, but politics at the expense of people is what taxpayers have come to expect from government.  Most Canadians vaguely remember the facts surrounding the devastating Walkerton tragedy in Ontario, the vast majority have still not cleaned up their own drinking water.  Many Canadians still believe that more chlorine could have saved lives in Walkerton, but according the Public Utilities manager Stan Koebel, more chlorine would not have made a difference.  Health Canada Epidemiologist Andrea Ellis stated that the well water that supplied the town had farm runoff freely flowing into it, it was a toxic soup.

     Chlorine should have been banned from human consumption long ago, the fact is there are far superior and less toxic methods of making water safe rather than using chlorine, sure it costs a bit more cash up front, but if we consider what is spent by taxpayers on our health costs in Canada we would have PLENTY of cash to spend on purifying our drinking water.  Sickness is mega business, and chemical and pharmaceutical companies are buddies when it comes to profiteering from taxpayers.  Certainly chlorine is a perfect plan for profiteering, put chemicals in peoples drinking water, lower their immune systems, make them sick and then prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to make them better.  You would think that us Canadians of all people would be more than a little suspicious of chlorine, especially after it was used on us by the Germans in World War 1.  According to Dr. Tim Cook, of the Canadian War Museum, in April 1915 one of the first chlorine gas attacks was carried out against a Canadian Division.  With Canadian soldiers suffocating and wheezing because of their ravaged lungs, many thought the Germans had found a weapon to break the stalemate of the trenches, but it failed because the Soldiers were quickly taught how to identify the chlorine gas and protect themselves.  It is ignorant to suggest that chlorine in our water doesn't contribute to all sorts of health disorders in our country.  The pharmaceutical companies are very happy to provide chemical solution, to a chemically caused problem.  It's a win-win business plan for the mega chemical companies and pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the Canadian taxpayer.

     For many people the taste of chlorine in their water is such a turn off that they drink coffee, teas, pop or anything so they don't have to taste chlorine, bottled water has become a booming industry because of the poor quality water coming out of the tap, but it's also cooking, cleaning, bathing and showering with chlorinated water that is brings chlorine into the human body.  What is really the final nail in the coffin is when people install a high quality filtration system in their homes and "like magic" their skin feels softer, cleaning is easier, they use a tenth of the soap they otherwise need to do laundry, and only a very small portion of shampoo to do their hair, because clean purified water has never lost it's ability to do it's job, and do it well.  Putting chlorine into water is masking the problem, it's a Band-Aid solution that is costing untold billions of dollars in health costs and loss of enjoyment of life.  Removing the chlorine and other contaminants provides your household with delicious tasting water and the best investment there is for long term health!

 

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