Public water systems have been adding chlorine to our municipal water supplies for decades. But how does chlorine affect water quality, and is chlorine water safe to drink?
We’ve discussed everything you should know in this guide.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Chlorine is used to disinfect water at water treatment plants because it’s cheap and easy to use on a large scale.
- Chlorinated water is considered safe to drink when the chlorine is added in the trace amounts required for disinfection.
- There are possible health effects caused when chlorine reacts with organic matter in water, resulting in the production of disinfection byproducts.
Table of Contents
- 🤔 Is Chlorine Safe In Drinking Water?
- 🔎 Why Is Drinking Water Chlorinated?
- 📋 Factors Affecting The Safety Of Chlorine In Drinking Water
- 🩺 Is Chlorinated Water Safe For Immunocompromised People?
- 🚰 If Chlorinated Water Is Safe, Should You Drink It?
- 📖 How To Know If Your Home’s Water Is Chlorinated
- 🚫 How To Remove Chlorine From Drinking Water
- 📑 Final Word
- ❔ FAQ
🤔 Is Chlorine Safe In Drinking Water?
Yes, according to the CDC: “Chlorine levels up to 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L or 4 parts per million (ppm)) are considered safe in drinking waterexternal icon. At this level, harmful health effects are unlikely to occur.”
Chlorine itself is safe in drinking water, but there are some side-effects of chlorine disinfection that may make drinking water dangerous for ingestion.
Drinking water disinfected with chlorine often contains disinfection byproducts. These are produced as a result of a reaction between chlorine and the naturally occurring organic compounds in the water supply.
Disinfection byproducts have a range of harmful effects on human health, including liver damage and nervous system problems.
🔎 Why Is Drinking Water Chlorinated?
Drinking water chlorination is an important part of the water treatment process.
Most public water systems get their water from surface water sources. This water is at risk of microbiological contamination, and, without being disinfected with water, could cause waterborne diseases.
Drinking water chlorination kills microbes and prevents them from causing sickness. Chlorine is one of the most common treatment chemicals, although there are others that may also be used, including chloramine (a combination of chlorine and ammonia), chlorine dioxide, and ozone.
Why is city water disinfected with chemicals? The number one reason is that chemical disinfection is cheap and easy to facilitate, while other chemical-free methods of disinfection (such as UV purification) are expensive to manage on a large scale. Plus, chlorine has long-lasting disinfectant properties – residual chlorine stays in the water throughout its journey to our homes, protecting it from microorganisms along the way.
📋 Factors Affecting The Safety Of Chlorine In Drinking Water
There are a couple of factors that affect the safety of chlorine in water. These are:
The Chlorine Concentration
First, the concentration of chlorine present in a water supply may affect the safety of the water.
Public water systems adjust the chlorine levels in water according to the risk of microbiological contamination and the presence of additional contaminants. The higher the concentration of chlorine, the more opportunity there is for the chlorine to react with organic materials in the water, resulting in the production of disinfectant byproducts.
The Presence Of Organic Matter
The presence of organic matter also affects the safety of a tap water supply.
Water that’s naturally higher in organic matter is more likely to have a higher concentration of disinfection byproducts, again because of the increased opportunity for chlorine to react with this material.
The Distance Water Travels
Finally, the distance that water travels through the public water system to your home determines the safety of your water.
Chlorine dissipates naturally over time, so water that has traveled a longer distance to reach your faucet will contain less of this chemical than water that has traveled a shorter distance. The less chlorine in your water, the lower your risk of the possible health concerns associated with the chemical. However, this won’t affect the concentration of disinfection byproducts in your water.
🩺 Is Chlorinated Water Safe For Immunocompromised People?
We found no evidence to suggest that chlorinated water isn’t safe for immunocompromised people.
Chlorine helps to protect a drinking water supply from microbiological contamination. Disease-causing microbes could have particularly dangerous health effects on people with compromised immune systems, so drinking chlorinated water that protects against these organisms can only be a good thing.
According to our research, trace levels of chlorine in drinking water shouldn’t have harmful effects on immunocompromised people. With that said, some people with weakened immune systems are advised by their doctors to drink distilled water (which is free from all impurities) as a precautionary measure. Consult your medical practitioner for advice.
🚰 If Chlorinated Water Is Safe, Should You Drink It?
There’s nothing wrong with drinking chlorine in trace amounts – but that doesn’t mean that you want to.
You might not feel comfortable drinking even very low concentrations of a chemical that, in its concentrated form, is toxic to humans.
You might also find the chlorine taste and smell unpleasant in your chlorinated water. If you’re picky with your water, you might drink bottled water to avoid the “swimming pool” taste and smell of your tap water.
So, in answer to this question, whether or not you choose to drink chlorinated drinking water is your decision.
If you don’t want to drink water with chlorine, there are ways to get around this – and you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on maintaining a stock of bottled water at home.
📖 How To Know If Your Home’s Water Is Chlorinated
As we mentioned earlier, while adding chlorine to water is one of the most popular methods of disinfection, chlorination isn’t the only solution to prevent contamination from microorganisms.
To find out how your tap water supply is disinfected, review your most recent Water Quality Report (which you should be able to find online). This report should note the method of disinfection used, as well as the concentration of the disinfection chemical present in your treated water supply.
You can also test your water with a chlorine water test kit to get a reading of the chlorine levels once water reaches your home.
🚫 How To Remove Chlorine From Drinking Water
Luckily, removing chlorine from drinking water is easy, and most water filters – even the most basic carbon-based filters – can reduce this contaminant.
Some of the best water treatment systems to remove chlorine from tap water are:
- Activated carbon filtration
- Reverse osmosis systems
- Water distillers
- KDF filter media
- Ultrafiltration systems
You can buy a drinking water system for installation under your sink, on your kitchen countertop, or at the main water line into your home, depending on your budget and preferences.
📑 Final Word
If you get your water from a municipal supplier, you should never face a situation where there’s too much chlorine in your water supply. And, according to the EPA, low levels of chlorine used for drinking water disinfection don’t pose a human health risk.
But if you want to improve your water quality and taste, it makes sense to use one of the many at-home water systems that can reduce or remove chlorine.
Make sure to read up on the performance abilities of a water filter system and check customer reviews before you spend your money.
Why is chlorine added to water?
Chlorine is added to water during a water treatment stage known as disinfection. Chlorine is an ideal disinfectant for municipal water supplies because it’s highly effective at killing microorganisms and it lingers in water long after it has been added, so it protects the water from recontamination during its journey to your home.
What are the side effects of chlorine in drinking water?
There aren’t any known side effects of chlorine exposure in water when the chlorine is only present in trace amounts. However, if you drink high levels of chlorine (much higher than you’ll find in tap water or even swimming pools), you may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Plus, chlorine byproducts do have side effects, including an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Is chlorine in drinking water toxic?
No, when present in the low concentrations used for water disinfection, chlorine isn’t toxic. That means it’s safe to drink chlorinated water every day without the risk of long-term health effects as a result of exposure to chlorine.
Does boiling water remove chlorine?
Yes, boiling water removes chlorine. Chlorine gradually dissipates over time in water, and boiling your water speeds up the chlorine dissipation process. You can remove around 1 mg of chlorine in a 10-gallon batch of water by boiling it for 4 minutes. The amount of chlorine in your water determines the required length of time you should boil your water for complete chlorine removal.
Is it OK to drink chlorine pool water?
No, it’s not OK to drink chlorine pool water. The levels of chlorine in pools are high, and drinking the water could make you sick. However, accidentally swallowing a small amount of pool water isn’t a cause for concern.
How much chlorine is safe in drinking water?
Up to 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 4 parts per million (PPM) of chlorine is safe to drink .Your local water utility shouldn’t add any more chlorine than this.