is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.


 Return to Chlorine page
 SEE: ZWA's Water Issues,Technologies, and Remediation


PHILADELPHIA, Pa., Feb 1, 1999 / PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a maximum limit for chlorine in drinking water that is 33% higher than chlorine used in pool water. Pool chemical suppliers instruct pool owners to limit the chlorine level to between 1.0 - 3.0 milligrams per liter (mg/l). On February 16, the new maximum of 4.0 mg/l chlorine in drinking water will become effective nationwide.

The given justification for 4.0 mg/l chlorine in drinking water is that, under federal law, water companies must ensure a minimum of 0.02 mg/l to customers living at the end of, sometimes, very lengthy water mains. This means that customers living at the front end of the pipe will be drinking water with higher levels of chlorine. (Note: Water treatment facilities that use alternative disinfectant processes to chlorination may be exempt from the 0.02 mg/l chlorine minimum).

On the adverse health effects of chlorinated water, the EPA says, "…studies show an association between bladder and rectal cancer and chlorination byproducts in drinking water….Reports from the older literature stated that chronic exposure to concentrations of chlorine of around 5 ppm {ppm = mg/l}caused respiratory complaints, corrosion of the teeth, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, and increased susceptibility to tuberculosis."

There is a disturbing lack of comprehensive test data on the health effects of chlorine. The EPA says that "Limited information is available on the chronic effects of chlorine in humans." And, "…no information is available on the developmental or reproductive effects of chlorine in humans or animals via inhalation exposure or on the carcinogenic effects of chlorine in humans from inhalation exposure." Chlorine is inhaled during activities such as, baths, showers, washing dishes, laundry, and watering lawns.

Peter Montegue, of the Environmental Research Foundation, reported in May 1998, that recent studies by researchers, including the California Department of Health and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, indicate that miscarriages and birth defects, including spina bifida, may be caused by adding chlorine to drinking water.

Many European cities and some Canadian cities have abandoned chlorination in favor of ozone technology to disinfect water. According to The American Water Works Association (AWWA), ozone is being used or considered for use at drinking water facilities because it is a powerful oxidant that disinfects without increasing the disinfection by-products that chlorine produces.


Lynn Landes, Director
Zero Waste America
(215) 629-3553