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About Chlorine

From the beginning of time, man has established themselves around water sources. It is for good reason as they needed water to survive. Much documentation exists regarding the many uses for water, however, there is very little to show how well our ancestors could discern "good water" from "bad water". Dating back to 4000 BC, records indicate that people used sunlight exposure, charcoal exposure, boiling and straining to treat the water and improve taste and appearance. In the 1700s and 1800s, we first saw the use of slow sand filtration to achieve better water quality. But it wasn't until the mid 1800s that epidemiologist Dr. John Snow proved that cholera was a waterborne disease by linking the outbreak of illness to contaminated sewage in London, England. This was the first established link showing illness transmitted through water.

"While filtration was a fairly effective treatment method for reducing turbidity, it was disinfectants like chlorine that played the largest role in reducing the number of waterborne disease outbreaks in the early 1900s. In 1908, chlorine was used for the first time as a primary disinfectant of drinking water in Jersey City, New Jersey. The use of other disinfectants such as ozone also began in Europe around this time, but were not employed in the U.S. until several decades later".

- EPA, The Histrory if Drinking Water Treatment

In 1969, the Public Health Service conducted several studies on the nations' drinking water supply that revealed only 60% of the systems surveyed delivered water that met all the Public Health Standards. More than 50% of the treatment facilities had major deficiencies. Many other studies were conducted that led to legislative proposals for a federal safe drinking water law that was passed into law in 1974. This law, along with amendments passed in 1986 and 1996 are today administered by the EPA.

Today, water disinfection by chlorination is the most popular method used my communities in the Unites States. In fact, as of the mid 1990's, more than 60% of the community water treatment facilities in the US used chlorine, with the remainder using either ozone or chloramines to disinfect the water supplied to the citizenry.

While the movement to disinfect water is inherently a positive thing, it is not without issues that are very concerning to the populace, especially those who view chlorine and chloramine as "contaminants" or "harsh chemicals". Public access to information is at the highest point in documented history. Citizens can access water quality reports for their community in minutes via the web. These reports disclose what each community water treatment facility uses to disinfect the water, what contaminants were found in required testing and the levels of each item found in the water. This information has led many consumers to research residential methods of filtration. It is also contributing to the 50 billion dollar per year bottled water industry that continues to thrive in the United States and abroad.

Exposure to chlorine and disinfection byproducts (DBP) such as trihalomethanes can have serious adverse effects both on animals and humans. Below are a few well documented and frequently referenced clinical trials conducted by experts in the fields of Epidemiology and Public Health. What is important to consider is that while these products may be considered "safe" in small amounts and have a critically important role in the safety of the public water supply, they may have undesired results after long term exposure. The evidence certainly suggests that very thing. It is highly suggested that each consumer conduct their own research to determine their personal level of comfort with being exposed to chemicals in the public water supply.

In a study of more than 5,000 pregnant women in the Fontana, Walnut Creek and Santa Clara areas of California, researchers from the state health department found that women who drank more than five glasses a day of tap water containing over 75 parts per billion (ppb) of THMs had a 9.5 percent risk of spontaneous abortion, i.e. miscarriage. Women less exposed to the contaminants showed 5.7 percent risk; no comparison was given for women who ingested no THMs.1

Further studies indicate that exposure to chlorinated water increases the risk of developing cancer. In fact, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1992, the results of this meta-analysis suggest a positive association between consumption of chlorination by-products in drinking water and bladder and rectal cancer in humans. A simple meta-analysis of all cancer sites yielded a relative risk estimate for exposure to chlorination by-products of 1.15 (95% CI: 1.09, 1.20). Pooled relative risk estimates for organ-specific neoplasms were 1.21 (95% CI: 1.09, 1.34) for bladder cancer and 1.38 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.87) for rectal cancer. 2

Published in 2004 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, pooled data from 6 case-control studies of bladder cancer that used trihalomethanes as a marker of disinfection byproducts strengthens the hypothesis that exposure to disinfection byproducts has been associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. 3

We found an increased risk of bladder cancer associated with estimates of DBP exposure from ingestion of drinking water, dermal absorption, and inhalation while showering, bathing, and swimming in pools. A doubling of the risk for bladder cancer was associated with exposure to DBP levels of about 50 μg/liter, commonly found in industrialized societies.4

  1. Waller K et al: Trihalomethanes in drinking water and spontaneous abortion. Epidemiol, 1998; 9; 2: 134-140.
  2. Morris RD et al: Chlorination, chlorination byproducts and cancer: A meta-analysis. Amer J Pub Health, 1992; 82: 955-963.
  3. Villanueva CM,et al: Disinfection byproducts and bladder cancer: a pooled analysis. Epidemiology. 2004 May;15(3):357-67.
  4. Villanueva CM, et al: Bladder Cancer and Exposure to Water Disinfection By-Products through Ingestion, Bathing, Showering, and Swimming in Pools. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2007) 165 (2): 148-156.

Showering Reinvented

Have you ever taken a close look at your eyes after they exit the swimming pool? How about your skin? The redness and irritation, despite what we grew up thinking, is neither normal nor natural. Many of us make, or have made, the assumption that because we do not smell the chlorine in our glass of water that it must be "okay" or low in chlorine. Yet when we stand beside the pool or spa, we are often shocked by the overwhelming odor of harsh chemicals. The same can be said for our shower. The number one route of absorption of chemicals into your body is through your skin during bathing or showering. Only products that specialize in effective shower filtration can reduce chemical absorption and eliminate the powerful odor of chlorine.

Less than 33% of the population is aware that shower filters exist, let alone the incredible benefits they offer. In fact, premium shower filters will make your skin and hair softer and more manageable while decreasing the amount of chemicals your body can absorb while showering. The cities in which we live are required to disinfect the water with chlorine or chloramines before sending it to the citizenry. That said, millions of Americans have chosen to add shower filters or opt for whole house filtration as a means of addressing the overpowering chemicals.

Alarmingly, up to two-thirds of our harmful exposure to chlorine comes from the absorption of the chlorine compounds through the skin and breathing the steam during that hot showers or baths. That means the steam we inhale while soaking in that tub can contain up to 50 times the level of chemicals than drinking tap water. Shower filters may be the new "bottled water" in the very near future. Think about how many people you see carrying their bottle of water with them at the next sporting or social event.

Now imagine the real danger could very well be the exposure with every daily shower, considerably more than what is absorbed when you drink a glass of tap water. Investing in the highest rated shower filter could soon be as important as investing in the safest car and quality health insurance.

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