It's mind boggling how many people don't know what kind of chemicals their bathing water contains.
Mostly, everyone assumes that the public water supply is safe. If not, then wouldn't other people also be falling sick?
To an extent, that is true. But here's the secret that your city's water supply dept. won't talk about:
The chemical they use to purify water for public consumption- chlorine-may be killing you in the long term.
I'll expand more on that in just a minute.
First, here's why you should take the effects of chlorine water seriously and how many people are at risk of actually being affected.
What's Chlorine Doing In My Tap Water?
Chlorine has been heavily used to purify water for a long time now, and it's been immensely helpful towards purifying our urban water supply as well as preventing public outbreaks of water borne diseases.
The simple fact is, that without chlorine, it would be very tough and expensive to achieve the same level of water sanitation standards across the world.
Given how widely it is used, it simply is unrealistic to assume that your area's water supply doesn't contain chlorine. If it doesn't, you would be a part of a small minority- like Netherlands, for instance- that has managed to centralize it's water supply and make the purification process chemical free.
In most other countries though, that is simply not logistically possible. Which means that there is a very good chance that your water supply contains chlorine in more than healthy amounts.
What Are Chloramines?
Off late, chloramination has become the purification method of choice instead of chlorination. Chloramine is the compound formed by chlorine + ammonia. The reason for this is that chloramine stays stable in water for longer- leading to better purification.
According to this list of 33 US states by dudegrows.com, 107 locations out of the total 184 get chlorinated water(~58%), while 77 get chloraminated water(~42%).
For more concrete data, you could check your water suppliers annual Consumer Confidence Report(CCR) , or you could also get a self testing kit to check for total chlorine(chlorine+its byproducts from chemical reactions, like chloramines), such as this one on Amazon.
What Are The Side Effects Of Too Much Chlorine and Chloramine?
- Hair Thinning
- Dry Skin, rashes(especially those with eczema, psoriasis, etc)and eye irritation
- Difficulty in breathing(especially for those already suffering from respiratory problems-such as asthma)
- Formation of THM's (Trihalomethanes) and THA's(Trihaloamines) that have been linked to cancer
- Destroys healthy gut bacteria
Is it safe to shower in chlorinated/Chloraminated water?
No, it's not. Rather- it's more dangerous than drinking chlorinated water.
When we shower in chlorinated water, the chlorine content gets absorbed by our skin - through a process called dermal absorption. It occurs as quickly as the time it takes you to wash your hands with soap!(Which is a good reason why you shouldn't even wash your hands in chlorinated water)
According to multiple studies on the matter, such as this one- total chlorine is way more harmful when absorbed or inhaled than when it's ingested.
Once the total chlorine enters our systems- here's all that can happen:
1. Hair Thinning and Fading
Chlorine/chloramine, once absorbed through the skin and scalp, sucks away moisture, leading to dry scalp, dandruff, itchiness and brittle hair- and eventually hair breakage and thinning.
Since chlorine and chloramine are oxidisers, people with colored hair may experience their hair color getting dull or fading fast. People with light, blonde hair might experience their hair turning green, even due to the same reason.
The good news is that hair loss or hair damage from chlorine is reversible. But more on that later in the article.
2. Skin Problems & Eye Irritation
Due to it's dehydrating nature-If you're already suffering from a skin disease, such as eczema or psoriasis, there's a high chance the effects of chlorine water on your skin could worsen your condition.
It also has the effect of making you look older- exposure to chlorine can make your skin age prematurely, look darker and more wrinkled than normal.
Also, depending on how sensitive your skin may be, many people also complain of acne breakouts and rashes due to chlorinated water
It can also cause eye irritation in people. Ever noticed how your eyes always seem red and itchy after a swim in the pool? That's the chlorine at work.
3. Respiratory Diseases
Total Chlorine reacts with organic matter in water- causing the formation of Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC's).
These VOC's become airborne when we shower in chlorinated water, and are easily inhaled. This happens because chlorine vaporizes much faster than water.
This effect is exacerbated even further during winters, when we take hot baths. That steam you inhale while taking a warm shower?That's when the problem starts.
You see, VOC's are known to increase the risk of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis. And if you already suffer from them, you probably will experience your condition getting worse.
By the way, the most common VOC is chloroform. A drug that was previously used as an anesthetic in hospitals and later banned for having cancer-causing properties.
According to multiple studies, such as this one conducted in Belgium, children are especially at risk for developing respiratory problems due to VOC's.
Similarly, people with pre-existing illnesses or compromised immune systems should exercise caution as well.
4. Linked With Cancer
Free chlorine/chloramine in water combines with the oil and sweat on our skin and forms compounds called Trihaloamines(THA's). It also combines with organic material in water to form Trihalomethanes(THM's).
How dangerous are they?
Quite. According to Water Research Centre, THM's are a Class B cancerous compound(shown to cause cancer in lab animals).
We are quite convinced, based on this study, that there is an association between cancer and chlorinated water… There is a clear pattern between consumption of chlorinated water and rectal and bladder cancer.”
Dr. Robert Morris
Medical College of Wisconsin research team
A recent study in USA found that women diagnosed with breast cancer had 50-60% more organochlorines present in breast tissue than normal.
However, it is important to note that there is no conclusive evidence linking chlorine to causing cancer yet. What has been found through studies are links between chlorine byproducts in water(THA, THM) and cancer, specifically bladder and rectal cancer.
5. Destroys Healthy Gut Bacteria
Here's a fact:
Through inhaling VOC's and skin absorption, a person can absorb upto 60% more chlorine than if they drank 8 glasses of the same water.
Let that sink in for a minute. You'd be safer drinking that stuff than bathing or washing hands in it.
All that absorbed total chlorine goes directly to the bloodstream, bypassing the liver, which is supposed to filter out toxins from the body.
And although eventually the body rejects these small amounts of chlorine that make their way into our system, they are still believed to cause damage over time.
According to The Candida Diet - since chlorine is basically a disinfectant, it may destroy the healthy bacteria in your gut. This can cause digestive problems, weaken your immune system and can also lead to an overgrowth of Candida yeast.
How To Know If You Have Excess Chlorine/Chloramine In Your Water?
Take a look at the list below. You may have noticed these side effects from chlorine water before:
- Does your skin feel drier 30 mins after taking a shower than before?
- Do you have redness and/or some irritation in your eyes after a shower?
- Does your hair feel more brittle than normal?
- Have you been experiencing any rashes, acne breakouts recently?
- Does your shower water have a 'bleach' smell- like most swimming pools?
If you answer 'Yes' for any of these- there's a good chance it's due to excess chlorine. Also, if you live in a hard water area, you'll experience some of these effects because hard water minerals have a similar effect on our hair and skin.
Another, more conclusive way is to get a chlorine test kit. Here's one I found on Amazon.
7 Proven Chloramine vs Chlorine Water Treatment Methods
- Buy a Shower & Tap Filter For Chlorine- Recommended
- Boiling Water
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- Dechlorinator Ball
- Campden Tablets
- RO Water Purifier
- Whole house Filter
#1 Shower Filter- For Chlorine and Chloramine
It's better to eradicate the cause rather than try and manage the effects. Buying shampoos and performing home remedies can help manage your hair- but the most effective way to protect yourself from chlorine is to get a shower filter.
I personally use and recommend the CLEO SFW 815 shower filter. I believe it's one of the best shower filters to remove chlorine- filters upto 95% of chlorine, and has the added benefits of removing effects of hard water salts, and trace amounts of heavy metals as well.
The only problem is that it doesn't tackle chloramines. If you're concerned about that, you can check out this shower filter on Amazon specifically for chlorine and chloramine.
Additionally I also recommend that you buy a tap filter, such as this one on Amazon because it just takes about 10 seconds for chlorine to be completely absorbed by your skin- roughly the time one takes to wash their hands!
#2 Boiling Water - For Chlorine
If you leave a vessel full of chlorinated water without a lid on, in about 24 hours, all the chlorine gas will dissipate from it.
Keep in mind though- chloramine is more stable than chlorine and takes longer to dissipate. If you're counting on leaving the vessel out, it'll take days for the chloramine to fully dissipate.
If you want to speed up this process, you can do so by boiling the water so that chlorine and chloramine are evaporated faster.
According to sfwater.org, it takes about 20 minutes on a gentle boil to remove both chlorine and chloramine from water. However, not a very convenient method for daily use.
Also, I couldn't find conclusive evidence that boiling does remove chloramines, as a lot of articles, such as this one on howtobrew.com say otherwise.
I plan on testing this method out at home with a test kit to verify, soon.
#3 Ascorbic Acid(Vitamin C)- For Chlorine and Chloramine
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid removes chlorine and chloramines. According to Divine Health, all you need to do is add 4-5 teaspoons of ascorbic acid powder to your bath water and leave it for 3 minutes before bathing.
This is the same principle utilised by Vitamin C shower filters. You can get ascorbic acid powder online on Amazon.
#4 Dechlorinator Ball- For Chlorine
I found this nice little product by Rainshowr on Amazon. It contains a crystal quartz filtration media, and all you have to do is, immerse it in a bucket of water or a tub for 5 minutes to remove all the chlorine.
Whether it removes chloramine is unclear- this website says it removes about 30% while the Amazon product info says it removes 90%. Since product info on any e-commerce website can sometimes be wrong, I would only trust this product to remove chlorines.
#5 Campden Tablets- For Chlorine and Chloramine
Campden tablets are typically used by wine makers or home brewers to help remove bacteria, fungi from the water. However, it also has an additional benefit- it breaks down the 'total chlorine' in water into chloride, sulfates and ammonia.
This means that both chlorines and chloramines are rendered harmless. According to eckraus.com, all you need to do is add half a crushed campden tablet per every 70L or 6 Gallons of water to be purified.
You can find campden tablets pretty easily on Amazon.
#6 RO Water Purifier- For Chlorine and Chloramine
RO purifiers are the most effective- they remove all viruses, bacteria , cysts, protozoa as well as dissolved chemicals such as chlorine, chloramines flouride, etc.
The only issue being- they waste a lot of water- about 60% of the input water gets wasted.
#7 Whole House Filter- For Chlorine and Chloramine
There are multiple options available online for buying a whole house filter according to the contaminants you have at home. You can easily check them out online, such as this one for removing chlorine and chloramines
Whole house filters are a big investment- anything between $1000-$5000, but you can rest easy after that.
While chlorinated water is prevalent in most homes these days and it's health risks are also apparent- they are easy to counter.
Keep in mind that while you may or may not have noticed the side effects of chlorine water, there is a very real chance that, over time, they will catch up with you.
Why take that chance? Especially when a simple investment, such as a shower filter can save you from spending much, much more on doctors' bills later on.
Until next time,
Stay healthy, stay good looking!