In my business as a utility director, chlorine has been getting a bad rap. Regulators, and some legislators are putting the pressure on utilities to get rid of chlorine–especially chlorine gas, used to disinfect drinking water and treated wastewater.

They’re concerned about its safety. Terrorists in Iraq used the cylinders in “dirty bombs.” And it can mix with other constituents in water to form harmful byproducts.

Well, the month of September marks 100 years of water chlorination, with the first full-scale chlorine disinfection system in Jersey City, NJ. Within 10 years, the number of cities using chlorine for disinfection reached 1,000. In 1941, 85% of cities in the U.S. were using it to treat drinking water.

Chlorine has been responsible for virtually eliminating many infectious diseases and revolutionizing our country’s health. This chemical has saved millions of lives by killing bacteria, parasites and viruses in the water, and I think it deserves some appreciation. Before the use of chlorine, thousands of people died each year from waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid fever, with over 27,000 deaths from typhoid alone during the Civil War.

In 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began requiring a residual chlorine level in drinking water distribution systems, and that requirement remains today. Chlorine is the most effective, least costly, and reliable ways to keep us healthy.

Check out the American Chemistry Council’s website, 100 Years of Safer Lives for more information about chlorine and how it benefits us every day.

And raise your glass (of water) to wish a Happy 100th Birthday to this remarkable chemical.

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