The Question of Chlorine

cloroxIf you spend any time attempting to do research on the environmental impacts or potential hazards of chlorine or its derivatives, the story is wide ranging and full of specific perspectives.

Like any “popular subject topic” the “information” available ranges in scope and calibre from actual scientific studies (of which there are far too few; the common case with many chemical products in today’s marketplace; all the way to completely inaccurate, oversimplified or purposefully misleading or misrepresented information which achieves a “point of view”. In many cases, supporting evidence notwithstanding.

Suffice to say that a thinking person, upon approaching such a subject, understands that the world he or she encounters upon “investigation” (which should be called “outvestigation, really, as you go out and find what others are saying about it, don’t you?) is fraught with vested interests of all sorts, attempting to justify and persuade you into agreeing with their position.

Because there is so little actual science to be had, the odds of getting good information are not great. Because there is a long standing industrial and municipal commitment to chlorine water disinfection, there is a preponderance of pro chlorine “white noise”…

I stumbled across an ad for Clorox on a keyword search for “natural cleaners” the other day… I don’t think I can go that far..

What we do know about chlorine and all its cousins, is that it has a natural tenancy to bond to organic substances in ways we had not anticipated. These “organochlorines” are extremely environmentally persistent; that is to say, they do not break down easily in the environment, but rather, sustain over long periods of time and travel through out the food chain.

In North America today, studies find humans can have up to 177 different varieties of these new creatives derived of chlorine molecules in diverse combination with organics in their body tissues. These organochlorines are the result of chlorine’s interactions with organic materials encountered in the process of their “break down” into harmless salts and water.

We also know that long term exposure to chlorinated drinking water increases rates of bladder and colon cancer in humans fairly significantly. If you want to read that data search for the cancer type with study and chlorine in the search. It is the only real data other than “known eye and respiratory tract irritant” that seems to be available for common perusal.

Finally, we know that organochlorines may not all be detrimental to our well being, but a few of them certainly are. Dioxins are one of the families of organochlorines. So, this might be iffy…

Now you can see why the idea of including information relating to this subject might become a bit of a pickle. There are far too many voices attempting to confound and confuse for the purposes of persuasion already. What to do? Well, my advice dear reader, is to:

Use your own head. Think it through as best you can, and come to your own best conclusion. Nothing else is really relevant anyway. As for chlorine, it has served us very well for a century nearly, from war zone to water pipe…

Perhaps it is possible we are on the verge of something new and wonderful that can help us find the answers to the problems chlorine has presented. Perhaps, we, like our forefathers, will come up with a better idea. Or a different idea.

They beat cholera and all sorts of seriously dangerous and deadly diseases, and now we will look out and see what new solutions are coming to take the place of a solution that has served us well and yet now may be one we no longer wish to choose.

For Chlorine’s virtue has always and still is, its environmental persistence. That is to say, the ability of chlorine to travel from the municipal water station to your home and persist in keeping the water free of bacteria and infectious disease, is what has made chlorine the solution for water disinfection. Ironically, it may also be its curse.

On site disinfection may become the new solution, which bypasses the need for any form of persistent disinfection. Because, as it seems to turn out, persistent disinfection is not good for us either.

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