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What are the Benefits and Risks of Water Chlorination?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Water chlorination is a process that is common in many municipalities today. Adding chlorine to the water is known to provide a number of benefits, including reducing the chance of people developing certain diseases as the result of water consumption. At the same time, there are some risks with ingesting water with chlorine added that has prompted some discussion regarding whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

One of the major benefits of water chlorination is that the process helps to prevent contamination of the water supply by various types of microorganisms. The presence of the chlorine does not interfere with the ability of the water to provide hydration needed, but does inhibit the presence of foreign organisms that could adversely affect the operation of different organs in the body. By adding chlorine to water as it passes through a municipal filtration plant, the cleansing action of the chlorine helps to prevent the spread of diseases due to waste or other products that are routinely dumped into sewer systems and the bodies of water that supply the city or town with water.

While no one contests the fact that water chlorination does aid in reducing the risk developing many different types of health ailments, there is also some concern that the presence of chlorine in the water supply may actually trigger health issues in certain situations. Since the latter part of the 20th century, concern about the role of chlorination in the development of colon and bladder cancer has emerged. At the same time, there is some evidence that people who are allergic to chlorine in general are likely to sustain some type of damage over the long term, possibly with some type of organ failure. There are also some concerns about the impact that water chlorination has on pregnancy, both in terms of causing stillbirths or birth defects.

At present, there is no consensus regarding the degree of risk associated with water chlorination versus the benefits. While some studies seem to indicate there are very real dangers associated with the use of chlorine to purify municipal water systems, detractors often point to what they consider discrepancies in either the group that served as the basis for the study, or the mechanics of the study itself. As the debate continues, some communities have begun to consider alternatives to water chlorination as the means of providing clean water to citizens, either as a means of completely eliminating the use of chlorine or at least reducing the level of use to a point that the chances for adverse effects are virtually eliminated while still providing some benefits.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon322153 — On Feb 26, 2013

It can be toxic.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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