How Chlorine-treated water affects your health

Chlorine-treated water is the standard for making water safe for human use. But are there some side effects that you might not know about? Not to worry, you will find out in just a bit.

Facts about chlorine

Chlorine is an element that occurs naturally. In its gas form, it is pale green, smells funny and quite poisonous. When it is solid, it comes in a yellowish green colour.

Interestingly, much like many minerals and substances, humans need chlorine. But we need it in a limited amount, and absorbing more than this amount can be dangerous. How then do we encounter chlorine in our day to day lives?

Chlorine uses and how you come into contact with it

Chlorine-treated Water
Chlorinated Water

This element is mainly used to disinfectant water and to treat sewage and industrial waste. Chlorine is great for this because it controls the growth of some harmful bacteria like Ecoli.

As such, you are likely to find chlorine in the water from the city, swimming pools, even in packaged water that you buy. Basically, you are coming in contact with chlorine everywhere you also come into contact with water.

When you do come in contact with chlorine, your body absorbs it in several ways. It can be absorbed through the skin, ingested through food or water, and breathing in the fumes.

Normally, the concentration of chlorine in drinking water is low enough to be harmless. But still, you come into contact with chlorine in different ways during your average day. This can accumulate to dangerous levels which can be dangerous to your health.

Health effects of chlorine

When chlorine enters your body, what happens is that it combines with water to form what is called trichloramines. These substances have been shown to be very damaging to your health.

There are some harmful effects of long term exposure to chlorine on your body. Watch out for these symptoms:

  • Asthma symptoms– Some studies have associated exposure to chlorine in swimming pools with increased asthma symptoms in some people. This can happen even if the swimmer is not asthmatic and if the chlorine level in the pool is safe.
  • Congenital abnormalities– This is another effect that could be potentially serious. According to some studies, pregnant women that were exposed to trihalomethane while pregnant were more likely to give birth to children with defects
  • Chlorine exposure and cancer– The Trihalomethane byproducts of chlorine and water have been implicated in causing bladder and rectal cancer. This was published in 1995 in Environmental Health Perspectives.
  • Effects on the skin– If you are an avid swimmer, then you can remember a dryness to your skin after a dip in a pool. That is the hypochlorous acid stripping all the natural oils from your skin. Rashes and burns are also other adverse effects you can expect from chlorine exposure. And if you have a pre-existing skin condition like eczema, the chlorine will probably make it worse.

Chlorine, saviour or killer?

It cannot be denied that chlorine is an effective and cheap way to keep water safe. It kills germs and microbes that would otherwise have made water unsafe for drinking.

despite these impressive uses, chlorine can also be dangerous. It is basically a two edged sword, one side used for good, the other for evil.

The conclusion here is that if you have to be exposed to chlorinated water in any form, try to keep it minimal. And if you are showing any signs of reaction to the chlorine, go and see a doctor ASAP.

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Segun is an ardent lover of fashion, reading and writing. When Segun isn't swimming baking or cooking he is punching away keys somewhere on the African continent. He is a creative with a penchant for finding (and in some cases creating) new and interesting ways of doing things. For more details, send an email to info@healthfacts.ng

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