Without water you would not survive longer than about three days.
But water that contains impurities and contaminants is equally bad for your well-being.
Chlorine is a naturally occurring element in water.
It is not harmful in the small dosages that are added to your drinking water but are dangerous when inhaled or imbibed in large quantities.
Numerous studies have been done of the effects of chlorine in water, whether for domestic, recreational or commercial usage.
Let’s examine and clarify some of the facts surrounding the effects of chlorine in water.
Table of contents
- Why is Chlorine in Drinking Water?
- How To Measure Chlorine in Drinking Water
- How Chlorine Affects the Taste and Smell of Water
- How Do You Remove Chlorine From Water?
- 5 Ways To Remove Chlorine From Water
- How Do You Remove Chlorine From Tap Water Naturally?
- Related Questions:
Why is Chlorine in Drinking Water?
Chlorine has been added to drinking water in the US since 1908, when it was added to Jersey city’s water system.
By 1995, more than 60% of public water systems had chlorine added.
Prior to that, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid were major causes of death due to contaminants in the water.
How To Measure Chlorine in Drinking Water
There are various ways to measure the level of chlorine in your drinking water.
1. Test Strips
One end of the strip is infused with a chemical compound called DPD (diethyl-p-phenylene diamine). The strip is dipped in water causing a reaction within a few seconds. .
If chlorine is present, the test strip changes color, which is then compared to a color chart to read the concentration level.
These test strips are cheap and widely available but are only about 80% – 90% accurate(1).
2. Chlorine kits
These comprise small bottles of liquid, similar to an eye-drop dispenser. The water is collected and the correct number of drops per the instructions is added.
The resultant color of the water is compared to a color chart.
3. DPD tablets
A third method to test for chlorine is to use DPD tablets. These are similar to the drops, and the water is tested in the same way.
This method differs from the clothes in that there are 4 types of tablets which test for different things:
- DPD1 : Free chlorine
Widely used an effective disinfectant
- DPD2 : Chloramine
Chloramine is also used as a disinfectant together with ammonia
- DPD3 : Combined chlorine
Free chlorine reacts with th hydrogen and oxygen molecules that water comprises
- DPD4 : Total chlorine
The result of free chlorine and combined chlorine
4. Color Comparator
This is a device which can be used to measure chlorine levels, It works in the same way as the other methods i.e., by comparing the color result to a printed chart
This is a device to measure the amount of chlorine present by using light beams: the difference in colored light in different samples measures the chlorine concentration.
Safe Levels of Chlorine in Drinking Water
The amount of chlorine that is considered safe in your tap water is 4mg/L (4 milligrams per liter) or 4 ppm (parts per million).
However, chlorinated water is only safe for human and some animal consumption.
It is entirely safe for your domestic mammals and birds, but it is toxic to fish, amphibians and reptiles. (2)
Unlike us and our usual household pets, these animals absorb water straight into their bloodstreams.
Your local pet store can advise on how to remove chlorine from water to make it safe for these creatures.
How Chlorine Affects the Taste and Smell of Water
Chlorine decontaminates water by removing potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.
It also removes hydrogen sulfide from groundwater.
Water that tastes strange could be due to a lack of chlorine in the water.
Of course, the water may taste bad because other chemicals, sediments or solids have contaminated it.
Water that has had too much chlorine added will smell like bleach.
To remove the taste and smell of chlorine, you could boil the water for about 20 minutes before storing in a clean container..
Effects of Chlorine in Water
When chlorine is mixed with water, it produces a corrosive acid.
The effects of chlorine in water can damage the body’s cells (3) and have potentially harmful effects on your health.
We will discuss some of these health issues in more detail:
How Does Chlorine Affect the Brain?
In Alberton, Montana in 1996, a train wreck caused a spillage of chlorine (4) and potassium cresylate.
There were persistent symptoms of respiratory, pulmonary (lung), and brain impairment in the local population.
Tests were performed on different subjects who were and were not exposed to the spill.
In studies done seven weeks after the incident, those participants who had been exposed were found to have impairments with their reaction times, vocabulary, visual fields and information.
Further tests done three years later found that people who had been exposed to the chemicals suffered from problems with balance, reaction times, recall, color identification and other issues.
How Does Chlorine Affect the Skin?
You may develop a chlorine rash (5) after swimming. This is not life threatening but can cause severe irritation to the skin.
Symptoms may include:
- An itchy rash
- Skin crusting
- Swelling or tenderness
What Effect Does Chlorine Have on the Human Body?
Extended exposure to chlorine may result in uncomfortable side-effects, especially if it is inhaled.
You may develop symptoms such as:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Coughing or wheezing
- Sore throat
- Eye and skin irritation
Pulmonary edema — excess fluid in the lungs — may develop after inhaling elevated quantities of chlorine.
How Does Chlorine Affect the Hair?
Chlorine is not your hair’s best friend.
It can break down amino acids in your hair, which weakens and dries it out.
Chlorine is responsible for the ‘green’ color of your hair after you’ve been swimming in chlorinated water, as the natural melanin is removed.
Chlorine will strip the hair’s natural oils, damaging the keratin. It also dissolves the oils coating the hair shaft, leaving it dull and brittle.
You may also develop a red,itchy scalp.
How Does Chlorine Affect Pool Water?
Where chlorine comes into its own is in swimming pools.(6)
It is widely used in public pools and you probably dose your own pool regularly.
Either chlorine liquid, powder or tablets is added to the water in order to sanitize it. It will remove organic matter and kill potentially harmful germs and algae, making the water look clear.
How Do You Remove Chlorine From Water?
It’s easy, but time consuming to remove chlorine from tap and well water if you have no filtration equipment to hand.
Fill your container with water and let it stand uncovered.
Warm air will cause the chlorine to evaporate more quickly, so it will take less time at room temperature than in the fridge.
You could set up a rotation system with three or four bottles, where as you finish one bottle, you top it up and place it back at the end of the line.
By the time you have drunk all the other bottles, the chlorine in the first one will have evaporated.
Well water would probably contain other impurities besides chlorine, so additional measures should be taken to clean the water.
5 Ways To Remove Chlorine From Water
These are the 5 most effective methods of removing chlorine from water:
- Reverse osmosis
- UltraViolet (UV) light
Water filtration is a method of removing chlorine using a series of membranes.
The water will pass through various filters to remove solids, bacteria, viruses, fungi and other contaminants.This will usually incorporate a five-step process:(7)
Distilling water is effective at removing chlorine and other contaminants.
It’s a simple process: boil the water but trap the vapor that is emitted. Transfer this to another container and let it stand until it condenses back to water.
Any minerals, salts and heavy metals that were in the original water will be left behind.
Distilled water is beneficial to people with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS or some cancer sufferers.
Using Reverse Osmosis
Reverse osmosis is probably the most effective way of removing chlorine from water.
It works by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane under high pressure.
This only allows the hydrogen and oxygen molecules that comprise water to pass through the membrane.
Salts and minerals such as sodium, fluoride, carbon, magnesium and chlorine are too big to permeate the membrane and are thus left behind.
RO water is considered to be pure water as 99.5% of its components are removed.
Using an ultraviolet light bulb will not remove toxins, including chlorine, from water. It does dissipate some contaminants but is less effective at removing metals and chemicals.
Using UV is therefore not an efficient method of removing chlorine from water.
Boiling Your Water
Boiling your water for about 15 minutes will remove chlorine but not chloramine.
Chloramine is ammonia combined with chlorine.
Boiling water to remove chlorine is effective for small quantities of water, but is probably not sustainable as a long-term solution.
How Do You Remove Chlorine From Tap Water Naturally?
The three best methods of removing chlorine from tap water naturally are:
As discussed, allowing water to stand will remove the chlorine as its molecules separate in the water and then enter the air.
Using a wide-mouth container will speed up the process as there is a bigger surface area for evaporation to occur.
Boiling remains the fastest and most effective way to remove chlorine from your water
This is convenient if you are in a remote area and need a quick solution, but using this method at home for all your tap water will not be efficient.
Is Chlorine Stronger Than Bleach?
Bleach contains chlorine and other chemicals, so bleach is effectively stronger than chlorine (9).
Bleach is manufactured while chlorine is a natural element, and occurs as a gas, liquid and solid.
Bleach only occurs as a man-made product used mainly for cleaning purposes.
What Are the Symptoms of Too Much Chlorine in Water?
If your tap water tastes like your swimming pool water, it contains too much chlorine.
Regular tap water should have no discernible taste, even though it contains small quantities of chlorine.
Physical symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are all indications that too much chlorine is in your water.
If your skin is dry and itchy, this is another indication that there is too much chlorine.
Chlorine is necessary as a decontaminant in your drinking water but care should be taken not to overexpose yourself.
Chlorine that is inhaled or imbibed in large quantities can be extremely detrimental to your health.
Luckily, its taste and odor will warn you that it is present and can be avoided to a large extent.