It was used as a poison mustard gas in World War I and as a chemical weapon in the Iraq War. It's the primary ingredient in bleach and in disinfectants. It's also used to make plastics, insecticides, and solvents for dry cleaning and metal degreasing.
So you have to believe me when I tell you that anything with this type of resume couldn't possibly be good to swallow. And in fact, plenty of studies have shown that you could also add carcinogen to its lengthy list of accomplishments.
If all of this is true, there's just one thing I want to know: Why is the government dumping it into our water??
Chlorine: A good idea gone bad
Chances are, if you had lived in the 19th century, you would have been as gung-ho about adding chlorine to the water supply as everyone else was. People were so scared, you could have told them you were adding arsenic to the water and they would have gulped it up. That's because everyone lived in fear of contracting a waterborne disease such as typhoid fever, cholera, or dysentery. And it's no wonder: People who contracted cholera, for example, suffered from vomiting and diarrhea so severe that they could be dead less than twenty-four hours after coming down with it.
But acting out of fear never did anyone much good--not in the long run, anyway. In this case, the harmful effects of a lifetime of drinking and bathing in chlorinated water are much more silent--but just as deadly--as the diseases it was meant to save you from.
Chlorine has been proven to harden arteries, destroy proteins in the body, irritate the skin and sinuses, and aggravate asthma, allergies, and respiratory problems. But chlorine also has a number of byproducts, each of which carries its own list of side effects. Chloroform speeds the aging process and causes cholesterol to oxidize, and DCA (Dichloro acidic acid) has been shown to cause liver cancer in lab animals.
In fact, a U.S. Council of Environmental Quality study states that "Cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine." Is that a clear message, or what?
Consequences of chlorine exposure
So what's so dangerous about this chemical? Not much, in and of itself. But when chlorine is combined with other sources, most of them organic (or natural), it takes on a whole new form--literally.
One of the main reasons why chlorine is so useful for so many different applications is because it so readily combines with other substances. The problem is, once it combines with other compounds--even if the compounds themselves are completely safe--the end results can form deadly toxins such as dioxin and PCBs, and carcinogens such as THMs (trihalo-methanes) and MXs (unknown mutagens).
Like it or not, if you're drinking tap water, you can be sure you're gulping down these and other carcinogens by the glassful. But don't just take my word for it. Studies have shown that both THMs and MXs are present in the vast majority of all water supplies that have been treated with chlorine. Here's why: When chlorine combines with humus (the final breakdown stage of substances such as leaves and vegetation) and with other organic matter present in the water, it creates THMs.
But newer research has shown that the MXs--those unknown mutagens--are 170 times more harmful than THMs. One study done in Finland found that MXs caused significant damage to the thyroid gland and also led to the development of cancerous tumors. The most frightening part about these deadly toxins is that they're formed when chlorine interacts with phytochemicals found in plants.
You know that I frown on purely vegetarian diets and that I believe it's foolhardy to think that you can eat a truly nutritious, fully balanced diet without animal fat and protein. But I've never said that fruits and vegetables are BAD for you. In fact, most contain nutrients that are very GOOD for you--substances such as Coenzyme Q10, vitamin B2, and vitamin E, just to name a very few. It's substances just like these (whether you get them in their whole food form or from a supplement)-- ones that have been shown to have numerous anti-cancer properties--that chlorine can latch on to and mutate into lethal MXs.
But relying on bottled water or buying a filter for your faucet isn't good enough--not by a long shot. Because as harmful as chlorine can be when you absorb it through your digestive tract, it's nothing compared to the toxic levels you absorb through inhalation. Unless you're one who frequents indoor pools, the most toxic place you can be is in your shower. The steam that's created when you take a hot shower is filled with chlorine that enters directly into your lungs.
Unfortunately, the mucous membranes of your bronchi, the breathing tubes that connect your larynx to your lungs, are highly absorbent of basic chemicals such as chlorine. Breathing it in provides a more direct portal for the substance to enter your bloodstream--which then spreads it though your entire body.
The poolside danger no lifejacket can save you from
Through the years dozens of readers have asked me if it's safe to swim in pools because of the high chlorine content. The answer is without a doubt, "no."
Although there are restrictions on the levels of THMs permitted in tap water, there's no limit on the amount permitted in pool water. This poses a real threat to swimmers because, again, you absorb more through your skin and through inhalation than you do through your digestive tract. One particular study showed that the dose of chloroform, a specific THM, was 141 times higher than what you'd get from a 10-minute shower and 93 percent higher than what you'd get from a glass of chlorinated tap water.
You don't have to be a sprocket scientist (a highly trained changer of light bulbs) to realize that the byproducts of chlorine aren't just IN the pool--they're around the water as well. Several studies have shown that people who swim in or work around indoor pools have a much higher incidence of asthma. And researchers in Belgium found that this toxic exposure increased the permeability of the lung epithelium, making it even easier for the substance to spread throughout your system.
Dr. K. Thickett, a researcher at the Occupational Lung Diseases Unit at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital said, "Our results show, indeed, that nitrogen trichloride (produced by chlorine) is a cause of occupational asthma in indoor swimming pool workers like lifeguards and swim instructors."
Trichloride is one of those byproducts I told you about that forms when chlorine mixes with an organic substance. (In a swimming pool that would most likely result from sweat, dander, urine, or other bodily substances.) Other byproducts are formed as a result as well, but I don't think I need to mention them all individually. The point is that they're there--and they're extremely dangerous.
5 ways to protect yourself from this deadly toxin
So what should you do in the face of this unrelenting chemical warfare against you and your family? There's only one answer: Eliminate chlorine from your environment.
Here's what you'll need to do:
- Purchase a filter for your shower. I recommend the ShowerSafe filter from Dr. Roy Speicer. To order one, call (800)444-3563 and give them this order code: AG11073.
- Buy a reverse-osmosis filter. This is a great filter because it sifts out heavy metals and contaminants--and it removes harmful additives such as chlorine and fluoride. The filter should be placed where the water comes into the house so that it covers the water supply going through your entire house.
- If you don't want to purchase a filter for your drinking water, I suggest that you buy bottled water from private companies. But you must be careful: Much of the bottled water is bogus tap water. You must see a report from an independent laboratory to verify that this water is truly potable.
- Don't put chlorine in your pool. A much better option is to treat the water with hydrogen peroxide, ozone gas, or ultraviolet light. Although the initial cost is higher, you'll save money in the long run because it will reduce operating and maintenance costs. Contact your pool service to see if they carry these technologies or if they can point you to a local company that does.
- If you want to speak to an expert in the field, you could always consult with a water engineer at your local college. He can advise you on reverse-osmosis filters, hydrogen peroxide addition to the water, and even the use of salt water as a purification system for your pool.
When it comes to removing these toxins from your environment, no one makes it easy or inexpensive. But trust me (in the words of L'Oreal): You're worth it.
Plight of the human guinea pig
Chlorine has got to go. And I predict that it will, eventually. But don't get your hopes up when the experts and bureaucrats introduce the next wave of chemical additives. You can bet your bottom dollar that they'll be 10 times worse than chlorine and fluoride ever were. They'll be untested just as chlorine and fluoride were untested, and we'll be the guinea pigs--just as before.
In fact, the water people are now playing around with chloramines, a chlorine/ammonia mix that may be 300 times more toxic than the chloroform you're drinking now. This new mix of old toxins is linked to iodoacids, which have been found to be extremely toxic in laboratory animals. Drink up!