Chlorine is all around us. It is in our household water supply. That means we are drinking, it, we use it for showers and baths, and we cook with it. And if that’s not enough, we clean with it and put it in our laundry (Clorox, chlorine bleach) and swim in it. Tampons (unless stated otherwise on the box) are bleached and the cotton fibers contain chlorine.
So? Isn’t that OK? If chlorine was so bad, someone would have said something, right?
Well there is plenty being said.
First off, chlorine is a harmful chemical. In liquid form it is a strong skin irritant. It can “burn” your skin on contact (we’ve all gotten some bleach on us at some point I know) and it is a potent lung irritant if inhaled in gas form. Anyone who has a pool can tell you, the bucket of chlorine used for the pool has to be handled as a “dangerous chemical” because it is. When mixed with ammonia, it forms a harmful gas which when inhaled for just a short time will kill you. (It bonds to the oxygen in your blood and without immediate medical attention, you suffocate)
It also has been linked to many forms of cancer including breast cancer. A study carried out in Hartford Connecticut, the first of it’s kind in North America, found that, “women with breast cancer have 50% to 60% higher levels of organochlorines (chlorination byproducts) in their breast tissue than women without breast cancer.”
Anyone who has ever bought a gold-fish (on won one at a fair) knows that you must treat the water with a neutralizer to rid the water of chlorine before you put the fish in or it will die……fish die in chlorine….
We are drinking chlorine…..
Chlorine (and/or it’s evil twin chloramine which is chlorine + ammonia) is added to drinking water at the treatment plant to kill disease-causing bacteria that the water or the pipes may contain. In third-world countries chlorine is making water safe in areas that otherwise wouldn’t be able to provide safe water. Areas of the world that have “dirtier” water have higher chlorine levels.
But there is a problem with using chlorine to clean the drinking water.. The chlorine that is added reacts with naturally occurring elements to form toxins called trihalomethanes (THM’s) which have been linked to a wide range of issues including asthma, eczema, cancer, and heart disease. There are also several studies linking the consumption of chlorinated tap water to birth defects, higher miscarriage rates and low birthweight babies.
A recent study published in Epidemiology 2012, looked at chlorine intake in pregnant women and the incidence of low birthweight babies. The study concluded that mothers who drank chlorinated water had smaller babies than mothers who drank filtered water. If you are pregnant, it would be a good idea to invest in a chlorine filter for your water at home, and be aware of the water you drink while out.
Chlorine is not the only way to disinfect drinking water, it is just the cheapest way. There are other methods such as ozone and ultraviolet light that could be used to clean up the water, but treatment plants still use chlorine. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change for a long time.
So you have to be pro-active!
One way to remove the chlorine from your drinking water is with a good quality carbon filter. These include the kind that are attached to the faucet, the kind that gets attached to the water inflow to the fridge or under the sink, and the kind that you pour water through into a special pitcher (like a Britta). There are even water bottles with filters attached. Read the literature that comes with the filter to see how much chlorine is removed during use, and change the filters regularly. It is not surprising that “you get what you pay for” when it comes to the quality of the filtration.
Various filters remove different components from the water, but most, if they have a carbon filter,it will remove chlorine in various levels.
Bathing with Chlorine
When you run the shower or the bath, there is chlorine in the water. If you like a good hot shower (like I do) then steam is produced.
Chlorine can get absorbed into your body through your skin from the shower or bath. And, if the shower is hot, you breathe in the chlorine in the form of chlorine gas. (gas masks in the shower…. anyone?)
You know (if you were reading the previous paragraph without distraction) that chlorine destroys bacteria. We have natural bacteria that is good for our skin, and hair. When this bacteria is killed off, it causes and imbalance leading to dry itching flaking skin and scalp (forget the Head n Shoulders…just get rid of the chlorine!)
More importantly, and I think of most value, is that chlorine fades hair color. I know you spend a lot of money for that coloring job…highlights, etc. Make it last!
If you take 20 minute showers, you are breathing in chlorine gas the whole time. Over a long period of time, this could lead to lung issues of worsen lung problems you already have. Laboratory studies show that repeat exposure to chlorine in air can affect the immune system, the blood, the heart, and the respiratory system of animals. We are animals…aren’t we?
The steam we inhale while showering can contain up to 50 times the level of chemicals than tap water due to the fact that chlorine and most other contaminants vaporize much faster and at a lower temperature than water. Inhalation is a much more harmful means of exposure since the chlorine gas we inhale goes directly into our blood stream.
To reduce your exposure to chlorine while bathing, use a shower filter. There are many styles and types to choose from. The one I use has the filter right in the handle of the nozzle. The cartridge is easy to change (unscrew and screw in a new one) and I don’t even know it’s there. Look around for one that you like and that fits your budget and fits your shower. Some of them have the filter that is attached to the pipe coming out of the wall and this changes the position of the spray. If you’re tall, it’s not high enough to take a comfortable shower.
I got one for my daughter’s shower too. I love the way the water doesn’t smell like chemicals! The filter must clean up metals too, because my shower water is much softer and so my soap works better.
Cleaning with Chlorine
Chlorine bleach…..it’s the “wonder” cleaner. We love to pour bleach everywhere…down the toilet, down the sink, we use it on out countertops….etc.
Clorox is a household name. And if the Clorox people had their way, they would want you to think that there is no other way to get your house and clothes clean than adding Clorox.
As far as your laundry goes Clorox is an “optical brightener”. That means it just makes you clothes look whiter because it absorbs ultra violet light and emits it back as blue light. So your clothes look cleaner, but really are not.
Clorox (and any bleach) when mixed with water and the dirt from clothes, forms new toxic chemicals called organochlorines which can be cancer causing as well.
Use other products in your laundry such as Chlorine-free bleach or put 1/2 cup of lemon juice in with your detergent. Hydrogen Peroxide is a harmless way to make you laundry brighter as well (the same thing that is in the teeth whitener mixes) Many supermarkets make their own brand of this. The hydrogen peroxide exposure is safe, and when it goes down the drain, it turns into water and oxygen, so it’s much better for the environment.
I use both Oxy clean and the hydrogen peroxide. (my family likes my whites white)
When it comes to cleaning, there are a lot of options. Here is one good web site for healthy, safe cleaners. One of my favorite cleaners that does and amazing job in the kitchen and bath is Bar Keeper’s Friend. It does not contain chlorine bleach, but you would think it does. I have found the powder works a bit better than the liquid.
Chlorine in …other places
Women who use tampons are exposing themselves to the most toxic substance known to man (or in this case woman). The substance is dioxin. The dioxin is present as a by-product of the bleaching process that tampons go through. other products like tissues, and toilet paper have dioxin as well, but our exposure is limited.
You can lower your risk of dioxin exposure by using “bleach-free” tampons.
You can also help the environment and eliminate you bleach exposure by using menstrual cups. (I have to put this in the “you’ve got to be kidding me” category) These are cups that are made of natural rubber or silicone and are “worn internally”. I am trying to picture using these—-two words come to mind: messy and leakage. You really have to be a die-hard true “environmentalist” to use these! But I guess I shouldn’t knock it unless I’ve tried it.
Thank goodness I’ve had my uterus yanked!
So let’s recap:
- carbon filters for your drinking water and shower
- non-chlorine bleach for your home and laundry
- menstrual cups or chlorine-free tampons for your lady bug