Chlorine - An Angel or a Demon ?


You don't have to be a chemist to know about Chlorine. It is one of those commonly used chemicals in various forms for different purposes. One such purpose is the treatment of water. It acts as a purifier and a disinfectant. Guess which property of chlorine fascinates us to use it in swimming pools,water plants and storage? It is the "Property of Oxidation". It is capable of oxidising the contaminants found in stored water thereby making it pure. For this reason, these days even small water supplies and drinking water plants are routinely chlorinated. Considering these positives, one may think, it is all safe to be exposed to chlorine in water. However, as all chemicals, chlorine too has its own set of negatives which should concern us.

You might have heard of chlorine poisoning quiet a few times. Have you ever wondered how can a purifier, a disinfectant cause poisoning in an environment? It is always the case - Anything in moderation is good. In excess ? - You got the answer!

Chlorine is highly reactive in nature. Its association with other compounds or elements found in air,water or a material, to which ever it comes in contact with, can cause a wide range of reaction, which can be both helpful and disastrous to humans and other living beings.

What is Chlorine - Is it a gas/liquid/solid?

Chlorine is a diatomic molecule formed by two atoms of Cl to form a yellow-green gas ( Cl base 2). It smells like a bleach. Are we using Chlorine in the gaseous state to treat water? Hell No!

Chlorine in gaseous state is very toxic and dangerous if inhaled. It irritates our respiratory system as bad as you could possibly imagine. As I pointed out earlier, it reacts easily with other elements to form compounds which are usually chlorides, chlorites, acids etc.,

In the treatment of water, either dichlor,trichlor or hypochlorite solution is the source of chlorine. Confusing? Hypochlorite solution when added to water, has the property of gradually releasing chlorine into water. With compounds like dichlor and trichlor, the chlorine atoms hydrolyze with other compounds found in water to form hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid acts as the deterrent to bacteria,germs and other harmful micros.

Still, are we safe from the chlorine found in water? Nope!

When it comes to bottled water, it undergoes a lot more of processing before it gets filled up in bottles which their manufacturers claim "Safe". Let us believe in their promise.

What about showering and swimming? These two activities put us in constant touch with chlorinated water on a weekly basis if not daily. (I don't know about you but I swear, I take shower daily... winks!)

Constant exposure of hair to chlorine in due course of time, will lead to thinning of hair, making it brittle and unruly. Dandruff is something, which comes as a by-product of chlorine bathing. due to irritation and extreme dryness of the scalps. The same causes dull, itchy skin and flakes on your body. So.... What can be done?

Tips to live safe with Chlorine:

Well, I can give a couple or more tips to protect your skin and hair. There is also a simple way to remove chlorine from drinking water if you don't buy bottles.

1. Never jump into the swimming pool right after cleaning and maintenance. I know, fresh water always throws its charm at us when the pool is refilled after cleaning. However avoid falling for it. Go swimming after a day or two of the maintenance. There is a higher chance of chlorine getting evaporated from the water after exposure to the atmosphere for a day or two. Ask the maintenance people about the schedules for cleaning and refilling.

2. Wearing a bathing cap while swimming is a wise move to keep water out of your hair. Sporting goods shops should have a variety of caps made out of different materials like rubber . Usual shower caps don't work with swimming pools. Invest on one of those. Choose the right size which would cover your hair completely. Buying a size which is even slightly bigger than your head is enough for the water to wet your strands.

3.Installing a Shower filter in your shower head. 10 bucks every 6 months wouldn't hurt much to protect you from the itchy feeling on your skin & scalps. Every strand of your hair is precious than a few bucks. I hope you would agree with me, especially, if you feel your hair is your asset.

I buy a brand called, "Sprite" from "Lowe's" for around 10 bucks. The cover says, it is good to go for 6 months. It works good for me for say, 8 months. There could be a variety of brands available in the market to choose from. I would strongly recommend fitting one of those in your shower head for having a clean, dirt free, chlorine free bath/shower.

4.Use a good conditioner on a regular basis. They usually do the job they promise.

5. If you are using a filter like Brita for processing your tap water for drinking, make sure you fill the filtered water in a different beaker with a little ventilation. As discussed earlier, Chlorine in its stable gaseous state evaporates and escapes the container. Thereby you can have a considerably less chlorinated water.

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