Chlorine in drinking water
One common complaint about drinking water from the tap is that it tastes like chlorine. Chlorine sensitivity is one of the key reasons that customers purchase a home use water filter. Aside from the bad taste, it’s important to understand the short- and long-term effects of chlorine consumption. Armed with this knowledge, it’s a lot easier to make informed decisions about your tap water usage and whether a filter is necessary.
Let’s dive into how chlorine affects your health, and what you can do if you taste chlorine in your tap water.
How does chlorine in water affect my health?
We’ve all read about how industrial contaminants seep into our water supply. But chlorine is one chemical that serves a very important purpose. Water regulators use this chemical as a key component in the water purification process. In fact, chlorine is one of the most common chemicals used in disinfection of the public water supply.
Normally, we can’t even taste chlorine in our water. But if the levels of chlorine in water are too high, or the chemical reacts with other chemicals and plastics, water can develop a bitter, disinfectant taste. This is a cause for concern but should not trigger alarm bells. Though it may taste strange, public tap water is still highly regulated so that it is safe to drink.
If your water tastes like chlorine, you still might be asking yourself if your health is at risk or if you have a chlorine allergy. Those are fair questions, so let’s look at the scientific research around chlorine and how it may potentially affect your health.
Is it safe to drink water with chlorine?
It is safe to drink water with small amounts of chlorine in it. Public health officials have been using chlorine in the U.S. since 1908 to eliminate viruses and bacteria. In America, the EPA regulates the amount of chlorine in drinking water so it is safe for public consumption.
A sensitivity to chlorine can also manifest itself with skin or throat irritation. Another reason people are concerned about chlorine in the public water supply is bathing and showering.
A small percentage of people who are sensitive to chlorine may experience this type of eye, nose, stomach, and skin irritation. But due to the small levels of chlorine in the water supply, this is highly unlikely. You should consult your healthcare provider if you believe you have an allergy.
Chlorine in drinking water: What you should know
There are actually two processes for disinfecting water with chlorine: chlorination and chloramination. Chloramine is chlorine with a small amount of ammonia added. For the purposes of this conversation, these terms are interchangeable.
According to scientific research, humans can consume water with up to 4 milligrams of chlorine per liter (4 parts per million) without any health impacts. Public drinking water never exceeds this level of chlorination.
The EPA has established limits for 90 contaminants in public drinking water through the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, including chlorine. States and municipalities test public water supplies regularly and must adhere to these rules. Local governments can also put more stringent rules in place if there is public demand for them.
You should also be aware that while chlorine is not harmful to humans in small amounts, it may be harmful to some pets including fish, reptiles, and amphibians. In these cases, your local pet store will be able to provide products that can make tap water safe for animals. Another simple home solution is the let the water sit for a few days in an open container, which allows the chlorine to dissipate.
Signs of acute chlorine poisoning
Drinking high levels of chlorine can cause nausea, vomiting, and throat and stomach irritation. Vomit may contain a chlorine smell. It’s important to note that this occurs with levels of chlorine that far exceed public drinking water levels or even swimming pool levels.
DBPs: What you should know
So far, we’ve been discussing the health impacts of pure chlorine. But what happens when this chemical reacts with other compounds? The byproducts of these reactions are known as DBPs, and they can have negative health impacts you should know about too.
Longtime exposure to DBPs can result in negative health impacts including liver and kidney damage, as well as adverse impacts on reproductive health. The EPA has set stringent levels on the existence of DBPs in drinking water, however, and local governments regularly monitor levels to ensure that water is safe for public consumption.
What to do if your water tastes like chlorine
If your water tastes or smells like chlorine, you can have your home supply tested for a small fee. The EPA offers a hotline where you can find an independent water testing lab in your state that will conduct these tests. This is especially useful if you are using a private water source like a well, which would not be governed by the EPA’s standards.
Many people remove chlorine and DBP's by using a water filter. Active carbon filters can remove contaminants from water and leave it tasting clean. Since chlorine in the public water supply has already done the job of disinfecting, removing it right before drinking won’t impact quality.
Aquagear: Proven to filter chlorine
At Aquagear, we believe that safe, clean tasting water is so important. We’ve developed proprietary technology to help filter out unwanted contaminants and we make sure that our products get results. That’s why our home filters are third-party tested to remove 96.50% of chlorine contaminants.
Our activated carbon filters also eliminate other contaminants, like BPAs (99.99%), Asbestos (99.99%), and microplastics (99.98%). We publish our third-party testing results for customers to see. Check out our products page to pick up a home use water filter today.
Benson, N. U., Akintokun, O. A., & Adedapo, A. E. (2017). Disinfection byproducts in drinking water and evaluation of potential health risks of long-term exposure in Nigeria. Journal of environmental and public health. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5576402/#:~:text=Several%20epidemiological%20studies%20have%20reported,5%2C%2034%E2%80%9337%5D.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, November 17). Water disinfection with chlorine and chloramine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/water_disinfection.html#:~:text=Chlorine%20was%20first%20used%20in,chlorine%20to%20disinfect%20their%20water.
Chlorine - Public Fact Sheet . (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/Chlorine_factsheet_82357_7.pdf
Drinking water chlorination fact sheet - eh: Minnesota department of health. Drinking Water Chlorination Fact Sheet - EH: Minnesota Department of Health. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/water/factsheet/chlorination.html
Environmental Protection Agency. (2015, November). EPA. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=P100VEBW.txt
Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. EPA. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations
IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. (1991, January 1). Chlorinated Drinking-Water; Chlorination by-Products; Some Other Halogenated Compounds; Cobalt and Cobalt Compounds. Retrieved December 23, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK506911/