Since the early 1900’s, Chlorine has been used to sanitise public water supplies. The introduction of the chemical greatly reduced the number of deaths caused by waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
For public water supply on a grand scale, chlorine might be the only solution that is effective both in cost and results. However, for those living on their own water storage/supply, the promotion of using chlorine to disinfect and sanitise their water is an archaic and misinformed approach.
What is chlorine?
Chlorine is actually a natural chemical element and is a basic building block of our planet. It was first discovered in 1774, but it wasn’t until the early 1800’s that it was recognised as its own element and named.
The name Chlorine comes from the Greek word khloros, which translates to greenish-yellow (the colour of the chlorine gas). It was first used as a disinfectant in the mid 1800’s and has since been the most potent weapon against life-threatening infections, viruses and bacteria.
Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant, destroying the outer wall of the bacteria and breaking the chemical bond in its’ molecules. Rendering it harmless.
What many people don’t realise is that Chlorine is used in many common every day products. Other than in swimming pools and drinking water, it is used to
- produce more than 90% of prescription drugs,
- in the development and manufacture of materials to make vehicles lighter,
- in crop protection chemicals,
- in purifying silicon used for making solar panels, and
- is one of the key elements in table salt!
Although chlorine in the mass water supply systems and in the everyday manufacturing and consumption processes is common and not really considered, using chlorine to disinfect home water storage systems is a practice that should be replaced.
How is chlorine harmful in personal water storage systems?
Private water storage systems typically collect water from roof tops, dams, natural springs, or creeks/rivers. No matter how careful you are, each of these sources will collect an element of organic material such as dirt/soil, leaves and twigs. This organic material builds up in your water storage system.
Compared to normal water supply systems that provide water to cities, most personal water storage tanks are not filtered before the water is collected. Even with gutter guards and strainers filtering the larger debris, dirt/soil and organic material breaking down, will see your water tanks building up a level of ‘sludge’ inside.
Since Chlorine has been so successful in providing bacteria free drinking water to the masses, governing bodies promote the use of this chemical as a safe practice to destroy bacteria in smaller home water storage tanks as well. But this is the wrong approach.
When Chlorine enters water, it has a chemical reaction with organic matter. The benefit to us is it kills bacteria (a minuscule organic matter). But when Chlorine is mixed in water that has larger organic material such as dirt, twigs and leaves, it actually creates a chemical reaction that produces gases known as Trihalomethanes (THMs).
THMs are formed when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic material found in water. There are four THMs found as a result of chlorination:
- Trichloromethane (chloroform)
- Bromodichloromethane (BDCM)
- Dibromochloromethane (DBCM), and
- Tribromomethane (bromoform)
You may have heard of the first THM – Chloroform. It was once used as an anaesthetic during surgery, and commonly seen in movies when the “bad guy” pours chloroform on a rag and knocks their victim out.
THM levels tend to increase with pH, temperature, time and the level of organic material present. Basically, a water storage tank is the perfect environment for high levels of THMs, especially if you have organic material in the tank and you are adding chlorine to kill bacteria!
Normal water supply systems governed by councils and water authorities, who use massive filtration systems and chlorine to disinfect the water, ensure the end users are provided with a water source free of bacteria and sediment.
The trade-off is that adding chlorine to the water supply can leave a nasty taste, and inevitably is being consumed as drinking water or through our everyday household usage such as washing dishes, showering and brushing teeth.
Some town water supplies have a heavy taste of chlorine. This might be due to the close location of the user to the water source, or because the quality of water at its source is quite poor. This is where having a house filtration system can help improve the quality of your household water.
For large scale water supply systems, there is a clear need to ensure consumers have a bacteria free water supply, which has been proven with the massive reduction in deaths caused by waterborne diseases over the last 100 years. But adding Chlorine to home water storage systems is a recipe for disaster!
Why you should be worried about THMs and Chlorine
THMs can be absorbed into the body, through inhalation (gases), ingestion (water) and through the skin.
Chloroform studies have shown effects on central nervous systems, cardiac arrhythmias and abnormalities of the liver and kidneys. Some studies suggest increases of incidences of rectal, colon and bladder cancer. But these are inconsistent and possibly associated with other carcinogens that were found in the water supplies as well.
Birth defects and developmental issues have been associated with THMs, which strengthens the case for avoiding the creation of these issues in the first place.
Breathing high levels of Chlorine causes fluid build-up in the lungs. A condition known as pulmonary edema. When chlorine enters the body, it reacts with water to produce acids. These acids are corrosive and damage cells in the body on contact. The most common symptoms include: Airway irritation; wheezing; difficulty breathing; sore throat; cough; chest tightness; eye irritation; and skin irritation.
A natural solution for cleaning and sterilising your water storage tanks
What councils and governments need to understand is that while Chlorine is a solution for the mass supply of water through filtered systems, it is not suitable for the personal water storage systems used by millions of people around the country.
There are better, and more efficient methods to ensure you have healthy, bacteria free, drinking water. This includes:
- Remove organic sludge from floor of tank
- Filter water of heavy organic material
- Disinfect with safe (non-chlorine) sanitiser (only after removing organic material), and
- Aerate and agitate the water.
Pristine Water Systems has developed our Quadclean™ process for cleaning and sterilising water storage tanks around this process. To achieve this, we use a Water Sanitiser which eliminates microorganisms.
Our AqueousPro™ product contains a uniquely stabilised Hydrogen peroxide-silver complex that has a synergistic and greater microbiocidal capability than standard H2O2. It breaks down to oxygen and water and has attributes of being stable for long periods and at high temperatures. It neutralises pH when diluted whilst still being active in a wide range of pH levels, and is non-toxic, non-allergenic and non-carcinogenic.
AqueousPro™50 is a product that is not available for retail purchase. Pristine Water Systems uses AqueousPro™ in our Quadclean™ process for cleaning and sanitising rainwater tanks and is the authorised dealer for the product.
However, Pristine Water Systems does provide a diluted version of AqueousPro™ to the public. AqueousPro™ 7.8 is available to help you maintain your water storage tanks between major cleans. It is also effective for sterilising caravan, motorhome and smaller storage systems.
In our modern society, there is evidence that there is a better alternative for killing bacteria in our water storage systems than the use of Chlorine. Unfortunately, governments and water authorities are failing the broader community by not conducting the necessary studies to highlight the problems of using Chlorine in small water storage facilities, and the subsequent result of THMs forming.
If you rely on water storage tanks for your precious water supply, we implore you to stop using Chlorine and seek a better, safer alternative to ensure you have healthy drinking water.
Contact Pristine Water Systems today if you have any questions about your water tank systems.