Chlorine was first introduced into drinking water in the United States in 1904 to aid in the disinfection and killing of any remaining microorganisms that could be dangerous. Direct exposure to chlorine, whether ingested or inhaled, is extremely toxic and even deadly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) chlorine is present in most drinking water at a level of .2-1mg/litre. The WHO has set forth guideline levels of chlorination that it thinks is safe, based on tests conducted on laboratory rats.
Chlorine oxidizes any kind of lipid contaminant found in water. Chlorinated drinking water that is run through a hose or tube, and then followed by dairy products have been shown in some studies to leave tough sticking yellow deposits. A study featured on CBS' "60 Minutes" showed a controlled study in which rats that consumed chlorinated drinking water had artery clogging.
Studies done in Belgium have correlated deadly melanoma skin cancers to chlorine ingestion and exposure. Chlorinated drinking water has also been linked to gastrointestinal cancers such as colon, bladder and rectal cancer.
A significant amount of chlorine exposure from drinking water happens during showers and baths. Chlorine is released into the air in the form of chloroform when taking a shower or bath and can be absorbed through the skin, as well as inhaled. Running dishwashers can also release levels of chloroform into the air which can be inhaled or react with surrounding food or surfaces.
Environmental Protection Agency tests have shown that more than 2,100 organic and inorganic chemicals can be found in U.S. drinking water, including pesticides, radioactive materials and heavy metals. Because drinking water systems in municipalities are not controlled experiments, it is difficult to study how chlorine is harmful exclusively. It is also impossible to understand the possible synergistic effects that several drinking water contaminants could have when mixed at certain levels in drinking water.
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