What Is Chlorine?

Chlorine is a chemical element that naturally exists as a yellow-green gas at room temperature. Chlorine is a highly reactive element and is a strong oxidizing agent, meaning it can cause other substances to lose or gain electrons. Chlorine has an atomic number of 17 and has the symbol Cl. Chlorine exists in rock deposits throughout the planet, and is highly concentrated in our salty oceans.

Chlorine is an important element with many practical applications. The most common compound with chlorine as a component is sodium chloride, or salt. Salt has been used for centuries to season and preserve food. Chlorine is an essential part of manufacturing and is used in the construction of PVC pipes, plastics, medicines, seat cushions, bumpers, and many other products.

You may be most familiar with chlorine due to its use in disinfecting swimming pools. If you have ever gone to a water park or swam laps in your fitness center’s pool you are probably aware of chlorine’s distinctive smell. Your parents likely told you not to open your eyes underwater in chlorinated pools, as your eyes would turn red and become irritated. If you swim often you know that chlorinated water can dry out your skin and cause it to flake.

However, pool water is not the only type of water treated with chlorine. Chlorine can be found in nearly all tap water in the United States.

What is Chlorine Made Of?

Though chlorine is a chemical it is not synthetically composed of multiple components. It is simply an element. That said, in its natural state chlorine is a gas and is hazardous to your health if you breathe it in.

For example, chlorine gas is not often used for pool treatment, and its use is severely restricted. The “chlorine” used in most pools is liquid chlorine, or Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl). This form of chlorine instantly creates hypochlorous acid when it comes in contact with pool water, and is typically pumped in rather than poured in for this reason.

For your drinking water, chlorine (Cl2) or hypochlorite (an ion composed of chlorine and oxygen) is added to the water at the treatment facility. The gaseous natural state of chlorine is pressurized to convert it into a liquid. When it dissolves in the water the chlorine converts to hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and hydrochloric acid (HCl).

Why is Chlorine Added to Drinking Water?

Chlorine is highly toxic, and as such it is added to water in order to destroy common bacteria, microbes, and pathogens that can work their way into a water supply. Disinfecting the U.S. water supply has eliminated the risk for many deadly diseases, including salmonella, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. Chlorine has undoubtedly kept us safe from these treacherous diseases.

However, as chlorine is a toxic chemical it also comes with its own disadvantages. Chlorine can cause several health problems and issues, detailed further below. There are other drawbacks to chlorination of water, including a distinct taste and odor. The volatile chemical nature of chlorine may cause it to disappear before it completely disinfects the water, and if it doesn’t disappear it can cause harm if turned into a vapor in your shower.

Chlorine Concentration

Determining how potentially harmful (and helpful) chlorinated drinking water can be depends on how much chlorine is actually in the water.

At What Concentration Is Chlorine Added to My Water?

The amount of chlorine added to your water is difficult to determine. Request a water quality report from your local municipality for detailed information regarding the chlorine concentration in your area’s drinking water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the maximum chlorine concentration considered safe for human consumption is 4 milligrams per liter, or 4 parts per million (ppm). The World Health Organization estimates that most water treated with chlorine contains the chemical at a concentration between 0.2 and 1 ppm, but because of the number of treatment facilities and variety of practices you should not assume the chlorine concentration in your water is necessarily close to this measurement.

In highly populated areas with water sources that must be treated to provide safe water the chlorination level of the outgoing water is likely tested every day.

However, if you live in a rural area with a lower population and spring water as your main water source, it is possible the chlorination level of your local water supply is only tested once a month. If you want to determine the level of chlorine in your water definitively, order a Pelican Rapid Water Test.

How to Lower the Chlorine Concentration

There are many methods for lowering the overall chlorine concentration in your water. For example, chlorine is naturally a gas and will slowly evaporate from your tap water once its emitted from your faucet. If you let a gallon of water stand for 24 hours the chlorine will completely evaporate. However, this method is inconvenient and impractical for most people.

Because chlorine is a highly volatile chemical there are multiple methods of removing it completely from your water supply. Read below for the best methods of chlorine removal from your tap water.

Health Effects of Chlorine

As a disinfectant added to your drinking water, chlorine has a terrific health benefit of protecting you from various bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that can cause infectious diseases. In recent years, however, the practicality of adding a toxic chemical to drinking water in order to disinfect it has come into question.

The primary issue with chlorine is that it naturally reacts with organic compounds that are present in your drinking water. Thus, chlorine will create disinfection by-products, or DBPs. The most dangerous byproducts created are trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs have been linked to several serious health problems.

A study published in 1999 found that the relative risk for stillbirths was greater for women who consumed drinking water with higher levels of THMs during their pregnancy than those who did not.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services reports that prolonged exposure to various THMs through drinking chlorinated water or inhaling these THMs will cause adverse effects on the central nervous system, heart, kidneys, and liver. THMs were observed to cause birth defects and to increase the likelihood of kidney and liver cancer development.

Another concern is that inhaling THMs and chlorine can be more harmful than consumption. Because chlorine and THMs turn into vapor at a lower temperature than water, this means that taking a shower in chlorinated water can increase your exposure to these harmful chemicals.

An academic article published in 2005 noted that dermal absorption and inhalation of THMs will result in a much higher blood concentration of THMs than drinking tap water will. Harmful by-products can not only affect your health if you drink your tap water; you may be at risk every time you shower.

Effects of Chlorine on Skin and Hair

In addition to these alarming potential health problems, long-term chlorine exposure can have unwanted consequences on the quality of your skin and hair. If you swim often or bathe in water that is treated with chlorine, your skin and hair can become flaky, dry, and irritated. Your skin may be more likely to turn red when it is touched. Hair can become frizzy and damaged. If you dye your hair the color can fade more quickly.

If you have delicate skin or hair you are particularly vulnerable to the rough, damaging effects of chlorine exposure. Why does chlorine dry and irritate your skin and hair?

Your body naturally produces proteins and oils that coat your skin and hair in a thin protective layer. This layer ensures your epidermis remains healthy, soft, and protected. Chlorinated water washes away this layer and exposes your hair and skin to contaminants and the elements, drying and irritating both in the process.

How to Remove Chlorine From Your Water

If chlorine does its job, your water may be free of microorganisms that cause diseases. However, often there is still bacteria present in your water when it reaches your home, either because the chlorine disappeared too quickly or because microorganisms leached into your water at some point along the journey from the treatment plant to your home.

Once water reaches your tap there is no need for you to consume chlorine. Choose the best method for your home to enjoy chlorine-free drinking water and shower water.

Does Boiling Water Remove Chlorine?

Boiling water will reduce the amount of chlorine in your tap water, but will not remove it entirely. According to the SFPUC boiling water for 20 minutes will effectively remove chloramine and ammonia from tap water. Their tests were less conclusively regarding the removal of chlorine.

It is important to consider the practicality of boiling all the water you plan to consume for 20 minutes: this is not an effective long-term solution, and will not reduce the amount of chlorine in your shower water.

Do Carbon Filters Remove Chlorine?

Carbon filters, very common in water purification and filtration products, are some of the most effective tools for reducing the chlorine content in your water, along with the general taste and odor associated with chlorine and DBPs.

Carbon filter technology has come a long way since the time of the ancient Egyptians, who stored water in charcoal because they discovered the water was fresher and tasted better when stored in charcoal.

The most common type of carbon filter in products on the market today is an activated carbon filter. This type of filter uses granular activated carbon media to effectively reduce and filter many contaminants and unwanted components of your water.

Less common is a more advanced form of carbon filtration, called catalytic activated carbon filtration. Pelican Water uses these types of filters in most of our models because catalytic activated carbon has a higher capacity for chlorine reduction. In addition, catalytic activated carbon filters can more effectively reduce THMs and chloramines. In catalytic activated carbon filters the structure of the carbon is altered through different activation and manufacturing processes to optimize its filtration capabilities.

The popular faucet-mounted filtration systems use an activated charcoal filter to treat tap water. However, due to their size and the speed at which the water is emitted, less chlorine is filtered out than with an activated carbon filter used in more comprehensive models.

Best Chlorine Water Filters

At Pelican Water we carry many different options that combine activated carbon filters with other filtration technologies to effectively reduce the chlorine and related chemicals in your tap water and shower water.

Pelican Premium Shower Filter - Protect your skin and hair from damage and eliminate the worry of inhaling chloroform gas and other THMs by installing a Pelican Premium Shower Filter in your shower. Three distinct filtration stages utilize copper and zinc oxidation media, GAC carbon media, and far-infrared balls to safely reduce chloramines, chlorine, and related chemicals from your shower water to keep your skin and hair healthier, softer, and protected.

Countertop Drinking Filter System - The Pelican Water Countertop Drinking Filter System may be the most economical choice for families living in apartments or condos. This water filter system filters and reduces more than 60 contaminants including chloramine. The system is NSF-certified and filters chloramines at a rate of 95%, resulting in healthier, great-tasting water for your whole family.

FreshPoint Series 3-Stage - The Pentair FreshPoint F3000 Three-Stage Filtration Systems reduces contaminants while kicking maintenance and hassle to the curb. Simply snap a new color-coded filter cartridges into place, and get back to what you love.

FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis 5-Stage - Reverse osmosis water systems are designed to reduce many harmful chemicals and contaminants to deliver better tasting drinking water to your tap. Our FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis systems reduces fluoride, cysts, arsenic, lead, turbidity, copper, chromium, and several other common contaminants found in drinking water. Pentair FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis Systems deliver worry-free water in a snap.

Premium Whole House Water Filter System - The compact EZ-Connect series of water filters are designed to accommodate smaller dwellings where a large filtration system isn’t feasible. For families living in apartments, RVs, condos, or houseboats this system that targets chlorine and chloramine will filter contaminants without taking up much space. Invest in our specific 20” chloramine model for peace of mind.

Chloramines are questionable disinfectants with a range of negative health effects and an unpleasant odor and taste. If you have any questions about our products or about protecting your family from chloramines contact a Pelican Water specialist today.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been reviewed by the FDA. Products offered for sale herein are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. No medical claims are being made or implied. Contaminants mentioned are not necessarily in your water.