First of all, let’s look at why chlorine is in your tap water. Chlorine’s presence in our water supply is due to its disinfectant properties. Chlorine kills bacteria and viruses that would otherwise make us sick. Without it, we would be drinking unsafe water. The amount of chlorine in tap water in the developed world is typically very small. It is enough to kill microorganisms, but not enough to be a threat to your health. Or is it?
Chlorine is a powerful chemical (we would even say contaminant). In a liquid or gas form, it is toxic to humans (and all life) in the right quantities. In fact, chlorine was used as a biological weapon in World War I. It has also been shown in recent years to be a carcinogen in various forms (when consumed as water, but also through inhalation and absorption through the skin). See this article from the American Journal of Epidemiology for more information on the study.
Many people take in a lot of chlorine every single day. Think about it for a minute. When you shower you are inhaling some amount of chlorine and your are absorbing it through your skin. Topically, chlorine, in addition to being a carcinogen, will also dry out your skin and you’ve probably noticed before that when you get out of a pool or a long shower you are all dried out. This accelerates the aging process and it contributes to the formation of wrinkles. For people with sensitive skin, chlorine can actually cause an itchy rash. Inhalation of chlorine (which can easily happen in the shower) can irritate the sinuses and in some people, it can cause respiratory problems.
Then, there is your drinking water. There are of course many other chemical compounds, residues, and byproducts in our water supply. In recent years, studies have shown that there are even residues from pharmaceutical drugs in our tap water. But chlorine is one of the most offensive chemicals in our water, because it has been linked to cancer.
Even if chlorine is not the danger it’s made out to be by any studies think about like this: When your tap water arrives at your house, the chlorine will have already killed most microorganisms in the water. If you filter out the chlorine, it’s not as if harmful bacteria will regenerate and make you sick. So why not eliminate the chlorine from your tap water and not risk any health consequences. Even if chlorine is not as harmful as some studies suggest, it is clearly not good for us. If we can filter it out without great expense, it doesn’t make sense not to.
Part of the reason this site exists is to show people the best way to purify their water. Chlorine is one of the first chemicals that comes to mind when we talk about water purification. Thankfully, there are many products, filters and even home systems that allow us to remove chlorine from our water. It’s possible to remove chlorine from your shower water. It’s even possible to treat and purify water while traveling without using chemicals like chlorine (just check out our steripen review.)
If you have any thoughts on chlorine in our tap water, please share them in the comments below. There is a lot of conflicting and controversial information on this topic. What is clear is that chlorine helps to disinfect large quantities of water. What’s also clear is that on some level chlorine is really not good for us.