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The Dangers of Chlorine and Chloramine

In the 1890's, chlorine began to be used experimentally to combat water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. It quickly gained wide acceptance due to its low cost and high efficiency in killing disease pathogens in the water. Chlorine allowed population centers to spring up and thrive without epidemic outbreaks.

Chlorine is a known poison, however, and the safety of drinking this poison over the long term (i.e. your lifetime) is highly uncertain. The greatest danger chlorine poses to health is through its reaction with water-borne decaying organic matter like leaves, bark, and sediment, which creates a family of highly toxic chemicals called trihalomethanes (THM’s). THM’s are extremely carcinogenic, even in minute amounts.

These byproducts of chlorine disinfection have also been linked to potential...

- Damaging effects to your cardiovascular system.
- Harmful impacts to your respiratory system.
- Unhealthy functioning of your renal system.
- Disruptions to your central nervous system.
- Weakening of your immune system.

There are many studies linking elevated levels of chlorine with early miscarriage and birth defects, as well as an increase in bowel and colon cancer. Chlorine can also cause chronic fatigue, dermatitis, and autoimmune disease.

While most people are aware that chlorine should be filtered from their drinking water, many do not realize it should also be filtered from bathing water. More chlorine is absorbed through the skin when showering than by drinking six to eight glasses of chlorinated water!

Chloramine, a combination of ammonia and chlorine, is a disinfecting agent used in some municipal water treatment plants, because it tends to remain longer in the water distribution system than chlorine.

Chloramines have been linked to respiratory tract damage and eye irritation in swimming pools. There are many studies that associate chlorinated drinking water with bladder and colon cancer, but the number of cases was much higher in communities using chloramine. There are also limited studies showing an increase in deaths from pneumonia and influenza in communities using chloramine. 

Chloramine does not dissipate in the open air, because of the ammonia. This makes chloramine much more difficult to remove from drinking water than chlorine. Regular filtration methods, including reverse osmosis systems, are ineffective on ammonia; it requires a more specialized filter and longer contact time.

Chloramine is also extremely toxic to fish. A spill of chloramine treated water from a broken water main in Vancouver led to the decimation of baby salmon. The resulting outrage of concerned citizens led to the removal of chloramine as a secondary disinfection agent.

Many people are unaware that chloramine is being used in treating their drinking water, and that their filtration system may not be equipped to remove it.

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