U.S. Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary of Chlorine in Drinking Water: A doctor’s take on the controversy

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

One hundred years ago today, the U.S. began adding chlorine to drinking water, says Andre M. Blackman, publicist for the industry association American Chemistry Council. Now I know there is a controversy with some regarding dangers of chorine, but can anyone truly argue that it hasn’t save lives? It has virtually wiped out the deadly diseases typhoid and cholera where it’s used–not to mention numerous viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.

Four of the points Blackman noted to JHMFD managing editor Leigh Ann Hubbard are:

  • 100 years ago, Jersey City became the first U.S. city to chlorinate municipal drinking-water supplies routinely. Over the next decade, more than 1,000 U.S. cities adopted chlorination, helping reduce infectious diseases dramatically.
  • The CDC calls drinking-water chlorination “one of the most significant public health advances in US history.”  In that same vein, in 1997, Life magazine hailed the filtration and chlorination of drinking water as “probably the most significant public health advancement of the millennium.”
  • Drinking-water chlorination has helped to virtually eliminate waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever, and played a major role in increasing Americans’ life expectancy from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years in 2006.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.  Unsafe water and inadequate sanitation kills nearly two million people each year, mostly children under the age of 5.

I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in public health.  Sometimes, I think we need to look at the big picture.  In this case, it is that chlorine in the public drinking water prevents public disease and death.  If you disagree, try drinking public water in a third-world country.

Does anyone want to add, agree or disagree?

Want to see how water treatment works? Click here.

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3 Responses to “U.S. Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary of Chlorine in Drinking Water: A doctor’s take on the controversy”

  1. Grant Morton Says:

    Hey Dr. Hubbard – thanks for this post. I’ve actually done some work with the American Chemistry Council, so it’s good to see that this 100 year milestone is being recognized!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks Grant. It is one of those things you take for granted until you go out of the country. If someone comes to the clinic with more than a day’s worth of diarrhea/vomiting, I always ask have you been out of the country, camping or drinking well water.

  3. Mark Salinas Says:

    Nice milestone……a nice benefit here in the states!

    Mark Salinass last blog post..Daily Life Challenge

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