Water consumption occurs all over the world, that’s how essential water is for our survival. But unfortunately, it also contains pathogens that can harm us. That’s when disinfection methods such as chlorination of water come into the picture. It has been used for water treatment across the globe for centuries now. In fact, disinfecting water supplies through chlorination has resulted in increased life expectancy. Also, it played a huge role in eliminating epidemics of waterborne diseases.
Even though chlorination is effective against most microbes, some are resistant to its effects. This brings us to the advantages and disadvantages of chlorination of water.
What is Water Chlorination?
Water chlorination is a process that involves adding chlorine or chlorine compounds to water. This method is predominantly used to eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses, making the water safe for drinking or swimming. Essentially, chlorination transforms water from potentially hazardous to reliably clean and healthy to use.
Advantages of chlorination of water
The best part about this procedure is that it is effective against almost all types of harmful bacteria and viruses. The following are some other benefits of water chlorination:
1. Chlorination inactivates microorganisms
Chlorine weakens the cell membranes of the microorganism. For the cell to survive, the cell respiration process and DNA activity are absolutely important. But by damaging the cell membrane, chlorine enters the cell and disrupts these processes. This leads to the inactivation of microbes. Therefore, chlorination of water is the most widely used method for microbial control. Whether it is water for drinking purposes or wastewater processing, chlorine is a suitable antimicrobial substance for targeting microorganisms.
2. Chlorination keeps the water safe
There are several water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and gastroenteritis that kill thousands of people annually. For this reason, the drinking water is treated with disinfectants. The chlorination of water disinfects the drinking water supplies. With this, the water is made free of pathogens that can be used for drinking and cooking.
Along with drinking purposes, the chlorination of water is used in recreational sources. This may include swimming pools and spas. It is tremendously helpful in protecting against skin infections caused by germs in the water. Chlorination of water ensures that the pool is sanitized so that people are not exposed to harmful microbes.
3. It is easy to use
Chlorination of water is one of the easiest ways of disinfection. So much so that, you can simply apply it and even measure and control it. The fairly simple process of chlorination of water makes it a popular water treatment method. In fact, it can eliminate a lot of pathogens quickly. This further makes it an ideal water treatment choice in case of emergency.
4. Chlorination of water is cost-effective
Along with being an effective water treatment method, chlorination of water is also a cheaper solution. Firstly, chlorine is mostly derived from salt which is a naturally occurring substance. Secondly, deriving chlorine does not require a cost-intensive mechanism.
Lastly, it can treat a huge quantity of water. All these make the chlorination system a cost-effective water treatment method. Additionally, chlorine remains in the water while it’s distributed, hence retaining its ability to continue killing microorganisms.
5. It is accepted worldwide
Initially, chlorine was used to deal with the bad odor of water. At that time, its ability to deactivate pathogens was not known. It was only known after Louis Pasteur, the French chemist demonstrated that microorganisms spread diseases in the mid to late 19th century which led to its wide use and acceptance as a disinfectant.
Today, chlorination of water is required in the distribution system of many countries. You can find chlorine all across the globe, mostly in compounds. Its role in lengthening the life expectancy of humans is the primary reason for its worldwide acceptance.
Disadvantages of chlorination of water
The major drawbacks of chlorination of water are that it forms disinfection by-products along with being ineffective against some microbes. The following is the list of disadvantages of chlorination of water:
1. Chlorination has a distinctive smell
While chlorination of water disinfects the pool, it also causes a distinctive smell. This smell is of chloramines, the combination of chlorine disinfectant and organic substances that include sweat, oil, and skin cells from swimmers. Some people may have chlorine sensitivity and its odor may force them to seek pools treated with non-chlorine chemicals.
2. Chlorination dries hair
The chlorinated water in the swimming pool eliminates the pathogens, but the downside to this is that it can dry out hair. No doubt, it helps in the prevention of water-borne illness but prolonged and frequent exposure to chlorine water can make the hair weak.
When the hair becomes dry and weak, it eventually leads to breakage. It irritates the scalp and strips the natural oils produced by the body. Whereas, natural oils are essential for protecting the hair. Hence, regular swimmers have to take several measures for protecting their hair from chlorine water.
3. It can cause skin irritation
Prolonged exposure to chlorine water is also detrimental to the skin. It opens up the pores along with stripping the skin of its natural oils. Eventually, it dries out the skin and causes irritation and itchiness. The situation gets severe for people with sensitive skin. This is because of the excess amount of chlorine that leads to skin rashes. The patch of skin gets red and inflamed which can potentially become a blister with continuous exposure to the chemical.
4. Chlorination of water can fade fabrics
Most of the water is chlorinated to improve its safety. But disinfecting the water with chlorine not only inactivates the microorganism but also causes damage to the fabric. Even though the amount added to the water is low in quantity, prolonged exposure can lighten the fabric over time. That’s why sturdy fabrics are used to make swimwear. But still, the chlorine-resistant suits can last only a little longer than regular ones and eventually show signs of damage caused by chlorine.
5. It results in a bad taste in the water
Disinfecting the water supply through chlorine treatment is a must to ensure it is safe for drinking. But sometimes, it leads to a sour taste in the water. It is the water temperature that makes the flavor of chlorine even more noticeable. This is because cold water holds chlorine for a longer duration. Furthermore, the chlorine in the water can react with rubber or plastic, resulting in a disinfectant-like taste. While chlorination of water is essential, it surely has a set of negative aspects.
Is Water Chlorination Safe?
Yes, water chlorination is generally safe and is a widely accepted method for disinfecting water. The chlorine levels used in this process are low enough to kill off harmful bacteria and viruses without posing significant health risks to humans.
But, keep in mind that, some people may be sensitive to the taste or smell of chlorinated water. In rare cases, long-term exposure to high chlorine levels can have health implications. It’s important that water treatment facilities appropriately monitor and control chlorine levels. If you are drinking chlorinated water, make sure that it is safe to drink and use.