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Chlorified Water and Its Effect to the Environment

If you are a professional ending up in this page, you may already know chlorine is 'bad' and dechlorination of for example the lake that you are maintainting is a necessity. However, you may not be fully aware what chlorine is and why and when it is good or bad, so you may read on.

If you are just interested in chlorine and its effects on the environment, the you also might find this article interesting.

Chlorine and water

We never really give much thought to the water that comes out of our tap. We just know that whenever we need it, all we have to do is turn on the faucet.

What we may not be aware of is tap water is often, if not always, chlorinated. You may have heard of chlorine but what exactly is it?

Defining Chlorine

Chlorine is a natural element that does not exactly exist by itself but only when combined with other elements such as sodium, carnallite and sylvite. Thus, it is never found free in nature.

It is a common element - more common than carbon, in fact - which can be found on land (though rarely) and in the sea.

Chlorine is a gas at room temperature that is heavier than air but can be converted into liquid at just the right pressure and temperature.

General Uses of Chlorine

Chlorine is used as an essential micro-nutrient for growth by higher plants in the form of chloroplasts. When there is no ample chlorine in the top soil, you can be sure of stunted development from your crops.

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When extracted from chlorides through oxidation and electrolysis, it becomes a powerful chemical that is used as a disinfectant and antiseptic, bleach and purification agent.

Chlorine is used in the manufacture of paper, insecticides, paints, plastics, petroleum products, textiles, medicines and a long list of other consumer products. It is also utilized to take the ink out of recycle paper. Indeed, this element has a host of uses we cannot do away with.

But more importantly, it also kills bacteria and microbes present in tap water and transport pipes. Chlorine is acknowledged as humankind's saviour against cholera, typhoid, dysentery and other water-borne diseases, thus, water from public water utilities have chlorine mixed in with it.

Who Uses Chlorine?

Aside from the industries that manufacture consumer products like paper, textile and the like, public swimming pools are also mandated to have their water chlorinated. They are closely monitored by the World Health Organization, Environmental Protection Agency and Center for Disease Control if they are abiding this directive.

About 98 percent of municipal water treatment facilities also use chlorine. As they are seeking to improve the quality of water they are delivering to the public, they have also embraced the use of this chemical. We have now been using chlorine in our water for over 100 years.

The Negative Effects of Chlorine in the Body

The discovery of this element is like a cure-all for so many troubles weve been having. But in our attempt to solve an issue, we might have created a bigger problem.

Chlorine is a known poison and scientists are just starting to discover its side effects. Health-wise, drinking chlorinated water has been linked in the worsening of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Even showering with the use of chlorinated water can negatively affect a persons respiratory system.

It is also believed to cause bladder cancer and heart disease. Drinking moderate to heavy chlorinated water can also lead to a higher risk of birth defects and miscarriage in pregnant women.

These, however, are just temporary effects of chlorine. What it can cause to human health when a person is exposed to it over long periods of time is still unknown.

The Negative Effects of Chlorine in the Environment

But the negative effects of chlorine are not just confined in human health. It is also hazardous to the environment.

Chlorine dissolves in water and from water can escape and enter the atmosphere when conditions are right. When it does, it reacts with chemicals and form chloride salts and chlorinated organic chemicals. Organo-chlorine chemicals are also formed which produce acid rain, deplete ozone layer and accelerates global warming.

By-products of these chemicals (from burnt plastics and solvents) pollute the air, fall into agricultural areas, accumulate and endanger the food chain with high levels of dioxins. Dioxin - which is a by-product of chlorine - has been found by the US Environmental Protection Agency to be 300,000 times more potent as a carcinogen compared to DDT.

Factories also contribute in polluting our waters with chlorine. To make paper white, paper manufacturers use chlorine and then dump it in our waters as waste. Chlorine reacts negatively to other elements and a vicious cycle is started.

Dechlorinating Water

It seems using chlorine as a solution to our water problems has been too good to be true - a fast solution to an issue that would bring more problems, especially if we are going to consider the bigger picture.

With the harm chlorine is doing, the need to dechlorinate water becomes imperative. But in a world that seem to have depended on chlorine about so many things, how do we do that?

Several water utilities have been practicing dechlorination or chlorine neutralization before releasing water to the environment. Some of these methods include discharging chlorinated water in sanitary and storm sewers.

Aeration also helps dissipate chlorine-content in water when they are stored in holding tanks. In Canada and the United States, a few water facilities store backwash and disinfection water in holding tanks to lingering chlorine to decay.

But with heavily chlorinated water, these methods might not be sufficient. In order to be effective in removing chlorine from water, dechlorination chemicals must be added sometimes.

But this also post dangers. Overusing dechlorination chemicals (e.g. meta-bisulfite and sulphur dioxide) can deplete dissolved oxygen content in water and alter the acidity level of the receiving streams.

The problem now has become doubled - how do you get rid of chlorine without further harming the environment with the solution you are using? Well, next to the below mentioned more global approaches, IRASSS may have the solution for you with it's powerful enzymes for professional and home use and it's professional aerator.

There has been a call for a chlorine phase-out since 1994 by international bodies and scientific institutions, especially in the field of manufacturing. In Europe, local government units banned the use of PVC as well as the use of chlorine by paper manufacturers.

Aside from that, they are also utilizing ozone to disinfect water instead of chlorine. Canada and some states in the US are also doing the same thing.

Currently, the process of getting rid of chlorine from our waters is still an evolving practice and cannot be expected to bring results overnight. But the point of the whole thing is to clean up our waters, lakes, streams and rivers, not just bombard it with chlorine for a fast fix.