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Chlorine - Know it, before just No to it!

Once upon a time there was a young man. He designed a water filter that was though not perfect, good for most. High on his Archimedean invention, he put it for the public display in the busiest market of the town with a tag “Comments cordially invited”. By the evening, it was difficult even to recognize what was actually kept there in the market. Devastated, our man burnt his invention and swears not to work on it further. There comes a wise man, out of blues, and advised him to build another and put it again in the market with a different tag “Please modify it the way it would be better”. That evening was different than the previous, there stood that piece with no changes at all! :)

I am not a pro-chlorine, but am certainly not “just” anti-chlorine too. When I came across this Crusade against Chlorine topic on Indiblogger, first thing that came to my mind was my childhood that I spent in a well-maintained railway colony, where the water was treated with chlorine and potassium permanganate at the source of distribution itself. I saw people spending whole life there, being born to parents working in the workshop and later joining the same workshop to spend their rest of life in the same colony. Luckily, I didn’t come across a single case of cancer, at least to the extent I remember my over 20 years of life spent there. In fact there was even a swimming pool, whose water actually testes chlorinated.

But that one case didn’t mean chlorine is not bad for health. Yes, indeed if taken-in in an unregulated way it affects individual’s health severely. Not going much into science of it, simply chlorine is a bleaching agent and does it by the process of oxygenation. And, Oxygenation refers to ageing. So a prolonged use of chlorine for sure will have adverse effects on human health.

Second thought that came to my mind was to investigate the facts myself too.

I haven’t yet read other blog-posts on the topic, but I want to clear here that there is lot more to know about TCCA and Chlorine based filter than available on Wikipedia. First of all, I visited the CREAL site. CREAL stands for Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, with a mission “to conduct high quality epidemiological research on environment and health and to provide scientific knowledge relevant for public health action”. There September, 2010 study showed harmful effects of prolonged exposure to chemicals in swimming pool water. The report talks about an detailed investigation of DBPs (Disnfection ByProducts- formed by reaction between disinfectant and organic matter) and Mutagenicity (ability to cause permanent DNA mutations) of water samples collected in 2 indoor pools (disinfected with Chlorine and Bromine); and the short-term changes in biomarkers of genotoxicity and respiratory effects in participants who swam in chlorinated pool. Evidences of genotoxic effects were observed in 49 healthy adults after 40 minutes swimming in a chlorinated indoor pool. Specifically, increased levels of two biomarkers of genotoxicity were found in relation to the concentration of the most common types of DBPs in exhaled breath after swimming. At the same time Co-director of CREAL, Manolis Kogevinas, quotes that "the positive health impacts of swimming can be increased by reducing the levels of these chemicals…in no case we want to stop swimming but to encourage the reduction of chemicals in swimming pools to ensure disinfection of the same." Report also states that levels of DBPs can be reduced by simple measures like showering before swimming, bathing cap, avoid urinating in the pool and perform proper maintenance thereof. So, though the report raises an alarm on the use of chlorinated water, it also urges for a more exhaustive research on the topic as well as advises taking up simple precautionary measures.

A simple Water purifier (Source: Internet)
Before going deeper into the subject, it would be advisable to know little more about the history of disinfectants. I came across a nice website while researching the matter, http://www.historyofwaterfilters.com/. Though the earliest recorded evidence of water-purification dates back to 2000 BC in Sanskrit scriptures, discovery of lenses and later microscopes was a breakthrough in recognizing the impurity of otherwise clean water. John Snow was first to use Chlorine to purify the cholera-causing water. Soon its disinfectant properties were noticed and chlorination of public drinking water started. Remarkable is the resultant sharp decline in deaths from typhoid (Christman, 1998). Being so effective at eliminating the outbreak and spread of waterborne diseases, Life magazine named Water Chlorination as “probably the most significant public health advance of the millennium” (Christman, 1998).

According to Toxicity data available with Physical Chemistry at Oxford University the chemical in talk, trichloroisocyanuric acid or TCCA, is ORL-RAT LD50 406 mg/kg i.e. an Oral Dose of 406 mg/kg would be 50% Lethal for a rat; and it’s harmful by inhalation, ingestion and through skin contact.

In present days Chlorine-based filters, release of Chlorine is generally regulated. At least as per the claims of the leading Chlorine based purifier, their system does so. We must have to admit that Chlorine is the cheapest way to disinfect the drinking water and thus it is not actually possible to stop using this miracle chemical overnight.

Demand of the time is:
1. Regulate the use of Chlorine based purifier.
2. Manufactures to release more inside story of their purifier system, be it Chlorine based, RO or other. Do you know an RO base system wastes over 50% of water?
3. Research and development of other “Economically viable” purifier systems. We must understand, we are a poor country and we need a cheap system for drinking water. Not many Indians, at all, can afford a 2000 bucks’ Chlorine-based purifier, RO is a utopia!
4. Few indigenous purifier systems, like Tata Swach claim to be Chlorine/Bromine free. Extensive testing may lead the system to be reachable to larger India.
5. A central water-purifier and distribution centre with well-optimized or in fact no-chlorine use can also be devised. Another utopian thought though!

A lot needs to be done, before this Crusade advances further against the Chlorine. Expensive techiques are simplly not the answer. All said and done, Awareness is good, but Knowing it before just No to it, is better!

 (Click here to visit my post on Indiblogger)


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