Before you freak out, water chlorination actually has its benefits. As much as we each have health concerns about tap water today, it used to be a lot worse back then before chlorine was used in our water supply.
*taps blackboard twice* Here are some historical facts on how it all began. In the late nineteenth century, the second industrial revolution brought us tremendous city growth - especially in Europe and the US. To sustain the population living in the cities, governments began introducing public water systems.
Back then, drinking tap water wasn't safe at all. Lack of proper transportation and water treatment put people's health at risk, making a lot of people sick and even causing death. In the US, cholera, typhoid fever, and other fatal viruses were killing people by the thousands. Introduction of water chlorination, amongst other purification methods, helped combat health concerns and eliminated the spread of waterborne diseases.
HOW DID IT BEGIN?
Back in 1774, a Swedish pharmacist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele accidentally discovered chlorine through a super cool science experiment. By combining a few drops of hydrochloric acid with manganese dioxide, he created a green-ish looking gas. Yup, that was chlorine. How does chlorine work? Well, the compound has strong bonding qualities that damage bacteria, viruses, and other icky stuff.
Fast forward to 1847, a maternity ward of Vienna General Hospital in Austria first used a chlorine mixture to stop childbed fever from spreading. Followed by the success, chlorine has been the go-to solution to prevent the spread of fatal diseases, viruses, and germs.
Do your eyes sting after you jump into the pool? That's chlorine. Now, it's commonly used in our piping systems to get rid of icky stuff like bacteria, pathogens, algae, odors, mold, and viruses.
Chlorine is added to water treatment facilities in the form of either chlorine gas, sodium hypochlorite solution, or dry calcium hypochlorite. This starts the chemical process that controls disease-causing impurities in our tap water.
WHEN DID WATER CHLORINATION START IN CITIES?
Water chlorination began in Hamburg, Germany, in 1893, and the process quickly spread through other European cities. In 1905, the London Metropolitan Water Board started chlorine treatment in their water supply as well. Then in 1908, this method made its way to the United States, where water chlorination is now utilized in about 98% of water treatment plants over the country.
In recent years, some European countries have found other methods for water treatment to reduce the harmful side-effects of chlorine byproducts and improve the taste. Countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland began the implementation of potable water delivery systems.
WHAT'S THE DOWNSIDE OF CHLORINE?
Like everything else in life, water chlorination has its downsides. The main issue here lies in the chlorine byproducts such as THMs and chloroform, which produces free radicals that harm your body. Even in small amounts, these byproducts can trigger cell damage and cause cancer.
Science News found increases in chloroform in study participants' lungs of about 2.7ppb after a 10-minute shower. When you combine skin absorptions and lung inhalation, you're likely exposed to more chlorine byproducts showering compared to drinking 8 glasses of the exact same water.
Showering in chlorinated water irritates and dries out your skin. If you suffer from skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, chlorine can increase skin sensitivity, in return, triggering the symptoms.
Chlorine can also wreak havoc to your hair. It dries out your scalp, causes split ends and dry hair. For those of us with highlights, chlorine can bond with iron compounds (found in your pipes) and oxidize dyed hair.
With that being said, the World Health Organization states that "the risks to health from these byproducts are minimal in comparison with the risks associated with inadequate disinfection."
KLEAN CAN HELP!
Minimizing the potential effects of these chemicals is essential for better health and better skin and hair. KLEAN shower filter works through a process known as "Redox," in which the filter media transforms chlorine into elements harmless for your hair and skin. This technology is patented by the National Sanitation Foundation, a member of the World Health Organization.
What else? KLEAN removes hard metals such as lead, iron, and mercury, as well as chlorine and hydrogen sulfide. We also filter out the nasties such as bacteria, fungi, algae, and other icky stuff.