Chlorine is a natural element, a yellow-green gas at room temperature. It is heavier than air, but under the correct pressure and temperature, it can be converted into liquid. Chlorine is found in the earth and can also be found in the sea. It is essential to the life of animals and plants.
Chlorine is widely used as a bleaching agent in the manufacturing process of paper and cloth. When released into the air, it reacts with water to make hydrochloric acid. When this acid breaks down, the products that are left can lower the pH of water, causing acid water.
Water which has been treated with chlorine is effective in preventing the spread of waterborne disease. Chlorine is used to treat water because other water filter media types such as carbon are not effective in killing sub-micron viruses and some bacteria. Thus, chlorination is also used to sanitize the water in swimming pools and as a disinfection stage in sewage treatment.
When chlorine enters the body as a result of breathing, swallowing or skin contact, it reacts with water to produce acids. The acids are corrosive and damage cells in the body on contact. Most harmful chlorine exposures are the result of inhalation, especially while showering or soaking in a hot tub of water. Health effects typically begin within seconds to minutes. Following chlorine exposure, the most common symptoms are airway irritation, wheezing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, cough or irritation of the skin or eyes. The severity of health effects depend upon the route of exposure, the dose and the duration of exposure to chlorine.
Chlorine byproducts can also affect health, such as Trihalomethanes (THM). Trihalomethanes are formed as a by-product predominantly when chlorine is used to disinfect water for drinking. THMs represent one group of chemicals generally referred to as disinfection by-products (DBP). They result from the reaction of chlorine and/or bromine with organic matter present in the water being treated. The THMs produced have been associated through epidemiological studies with some adverse health effects. They can be absorbed into the body through the skin or by inhalation. When THMs are absorbed through the skin or into the lungs, they hold stronger carcinogenic properties because they aren't detoxified through the liver.
Chlorine is added in varying amounts to all municipal water supplies in the US, although it may be added by itself or combined with ammonia to create chloramines. Chlorine, by itself, is generally easy to remove with carbon filters, but not all carbon filters remove the disinfection by-products. With chloramines, KDF85 breaks the chlorine:ammonia bond, then carbon can easily remove the chlorine and ammonia.
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