How modern water sanitation can damage your health

Introduction

Extracts from “Is Your Water Safe” by Dr. Mercola.

If you live in a typical urban or suburban area of the United States, the water you use every day is very likely loaded with chlorine, and something FAR more toxic; something you may have never even heard of.

Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are contaminants found in nearly every municipal water supply that adds chlorine, and they are over 100 times more toxic than chlorine.  That clear, clean-looking liquid you use every day – to quench your thirst, to bathe in, to wash your dishes and laundry – is far from the fresh, pure resource you might
assume.

In fact, depending on where you live, the time of year, and your individual susceptibility, you could be exposed to dangerously high levels of DBPs in the chlorinated water you and your family use at home, at school or at work.

Chlorine is used to sanitize both public water supplies and swimming pools, and in the manufacture of bleached paper products. This potent chemical is also used to make plastics and pesticides.

It is important to understand that chlorine itself is relatively benign and breaks down to chloride in your body, which is not much different from the chloride ion in salt. The problem is that it reacts with organic material already dissolved in the water, forming these far more toxic DBPs.

Chlorination of public water systems began in the United States a century ago, in 1908, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and is still one of the most common disinfection techniques used at water treatment facilities today.

The primary reason for adding chlorine to water is to make it safe to drink by killing or inactivating harmful microorganisms that cause diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and giardiasis.

Without question, chlorine does work to help keep us free from infectious diarrhoeas. We can be thankful that we don’t get sick from our tap water like people in many underdeveloped countries do. However, chlorine’s effectiveness as a water sanitizer is due in part to its characteristic as a persistent chemical. In other words, it doesn’t break down like other sanitizing agents. It is able to withstand hundreds of miles of travel, through centuries’ old piping systems, to deliver water to your home that is free of waterborne contaminants.

That’s the good news. The bad news?

Chemicals that are persistent, like DBPs, also tend to be very toxic. Given the wide variety of applications for chlorine, many of which we are exposed to several times a day, every day, it’s not surprising to learn that we are polluting our bodies and the world at an unprecedented rate.

The term chlorine pollution means Americans ingest from 300 to 600 times what the Environmental Protection Agency considers a “safe” amount. And with devastating results.

The health effects from the DBPs created during water chlorination can be carcinogenic and/or have effects on reproduction and development. Large amounts of studies show there is a relation between chlorinated drinking
water and bladder-, intestinal- and anal cancer.

According to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is 93 percent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.

Aside from ingesting residual chlorine, it is in fact the unintended byproducts of chlorine use that are the most toxic; many of which are considered mutagenic and/or carcinogenic.

These byproducts do not break down readily; they bio-accumulate, meaning they are absorbed faster than they are broken down. Hence the byproducts of chlorine can accumulate in your system at a greater rate than
your body can detoxify in order to maintain your good health. (The same toxic cumulative effect can also be seen in our environment.)

The two primary DBPs formed when chlorine is used are:
• trihalomethanes (THMs)
• haloacetic acids (HAAs)

Trihalomethanes include four different chemicals: chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and
dibromochloromethane.

Trihalomethanes (THMs) are a Cancer Group B carcinogen, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. They’ve also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans, and human studies suggest that lifetime consumption of chlorine-treated water can more than double the risk of bladder and rectal cancers in certain individuals.

These DBPs have also been linked to damaging effects to heart, lung, kidney and central nervous system.
Other dangerous byproducts of chlorine usage include PCBs, DDT, and dioxins.

But more than 600 different DBPs have been reported in the scientific literature since EPA scientists first discovered chloroform in chlorinated drinking water, back in 1974. Still, more than thirty years later, the EPA estimates that less than half of all chlorinated DBPs have been identified.

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