Understanding the Use of Disinfectants
As stated by Keep Tap Water Safe, “drinking water disinfection is among the most important technological advances of humanity” (1). When faced with the threat of pathogens in drinking water, water suppliers are able to add disinfectants to prevent the spread of these pathogens from causing diseases and other health risks (2). Overall, the use of disinfectants has significantly improved the quality of lives of many people from across the globe. But despite the benefits, drinking disinfected water still “runs the risk of over-ingesting the disinfection chemicals used in public water treatment, along with their dangerous disinfection bi-products” (1).
Chlorine in Your Water
The most commonly used disinfectant is chlorine. Chlorine has few major adverse effects to human health and is effective at destroying the membranes of most microorganisms in water (3). However, there are certain pathogens, including Cryptosporidium, that are resistant to traditional disinfection pathogens (2). Additionally, long-term exposure to drinking chlorinated water has shown to be possibly linked to increased risks of bladder cancer due to presence of trihalomehtanes (THMs) in the body (4). THMs are a disinfection bi-product that forms when organic matter in the water combines with chlorine, which “when ingested encourage the growth of free radicals that can destroy or damage vital cells in the body” (5).
Another problem that can arise with using chlorine is that the process only works when chlorine comes into direct contact with the organisms (6). If the water contains certain materials, such as silt, then chlorine may not be able to reach bacteria. According to the World Health Organization, “chlorine disinfects water but does not purify it.” Most importantly, it is known that “chlorine will not remove chemical contaminants from the water” (6).
Chlorine’s Relative Chloramine
Chloramine is another commonly used disinfectant. Although not as effective chlorine in immediately attacking pathogens, chloramine does provide longer-lasting water treatment as the water moves through pipes to consumers like you (7). With its long-lasting effects, this process allows for effective secondary disinfection following chlorine (1).
As a combination of chlorine and ammonia, chloramine takes on three different forms when in water: monochloramine, dichloramine, and trichloramine (8). Chloramine will rapidly shift from one form to the next depending on water conditions such as temperature and pH. Although the long-lasting effects of chloramine are what make it beneficial to water suppliers, it is also “exactly because these toxins are so long lasting that they are so dangerous. We’re exposed to them” (1).
All three forms are respiratory irritants but dichloramine and trichloramine are particularly hazardous to human health. As stated by the leading organization in the world for bringing about awareness of the hazards of chloramine, the Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC) claim that “in contrast to what water utilities claim, it is impossible to have only monochloramine. It is not unusual in water systems for harmful di and trichloramines to occur” (8). You know the chlorine in your swimming pools? That is the trichloramine that you grew up knowing not to drink (9).
Every source discusses a wide variety of health problems ranging from immune system problems, respiratory problems, skin problems, digestive and gastric problems, and kidney and blood problems; all associated with the effects of drinking chloraminated water and its bi-products. But what’s particularly scary is that, unlike chlorine, there have been no scientific studies demonstrating the degree of impact chloramine has on human health (1).
Chloramine is much more difficult to remove from your water system as it dissipates very slowly compared to other disinfectants including chlorine (8). Additionally, boiling or distilling the water does not remove the chloramine or its bi-products in your water. By using water treated with chloramine, you run into the risk of being exposed to “chloramine vapors and its disinfection bi-products [which] can accumulate in indoor air and concentrate in an enclosed area such as a shower stall, small bathroom, kitchen, or apartment” (8).
For more information about the dangers and perceptions of chloramine, check out this highly regarded article: Protection or Poison? Chloramination of Drinking Water.
What Risks You Could Be Facing
Disinfecting water is quite beneficial in improving water quality and removing pathogens from spreading harmful diseases. However, there are underlying concerns of using these products that even the United States Environmental Protection Agency fails to provide substantial information to what these products could do to you (1). Particularly when water sources are possibly exposed to chemical contamination as a lot of sources are in China, the process of removing these chemicals and purifying the water becomes immensely more complicated than what disinfectants can do and thus requires specialist knowledge and equipment (6).
But this is where Environment Assured comes in. In a nation notorious for its growing water pollution, chlorine and chloramine just aren’t going to be effective in making the water safe for you in China. You deserve to know what is in your water and to be in control of how your water treated to make sure it is safe and healthy for you, your family, or your business. We can help you test your water and find a suitable filter to eliminate your exposure to disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine.
What’s in the Water