The public water system is an engineering marvel. Thousands of miles of pipes transport water from aquifers to peoples’ homes. But one question remains: what keeps all this water clean?
The answer is Chlorine.
According to the American Chemistry Council, Jersey City was the first to add chlorine to their public drinking water in 1907. Other cities across the country followed suit. Subsequently, cholera and typhoid fever levels dropped dramatically. This partly led to a 50% increase in lifespan among Americans.
Bacteria, viruses, and parasites often leach into water supplies that are improperly treated to kill germs. Fortunately, these are much better controlled today than they once were, partly due to chlorine disinfection.
However, according to a National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report, 77 million Americans got drinking water from systems that violated federal protections in 2015. More than a third of these relied on systems that did not comply with standards aimed to protect health.
But chlorine is not the only thing in tap water. In 2014 in Flint, Michigan, highly toxic levels of the heavy metal, lead, was detected in the city’s water supply. It was a wake-up call for people across the country, who realized that their water was contaminated by lead pipes and faucets.
The NRDC has been working to curb the amount of pollutants in water. You can avoid drinking water that has contaminants by checking if the water in your area is safe.
Something needs to be done.
photo credit from healthyharlem.org