Chlorination is the process of adding the element chlorine to water as a method of water purification to make it fit for human consumption as drinking water. Water which has been treated with chlorine is effective in preventing the spread of disease.
The chlorination of public drinking supplies was originally met with resistance, as people were concerned about the health effects of the practice. The use of chlorine has greatly reduced the prevalence of waterborne disease as it is effective against almost all bacteria and viruses, as well as amoeba.
Chlorination is also used to sanitize the water in swimming pools and as a disinfection stage in sewage treatment.
Disinfection by chlorination can be problematic, in some circumstances. Chlorine can react with naturally occurring organic compounds found in the water supply to produce dangerous compounds, known as disinfection byproducts (DBPs). The most common DBPs are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids. Due to the carcinogenic potential of these compounds, federal regulations in the United States of America require regular monitoring of the concentration of these compounds in the distribution systems of municipal water systems. However, the World Health Organization has stated that the "Risks to health from DBPs are extremely small in comparison with inadequate disinfection.
There are also other concerns regarding chlorine, including its volatile nature which causes it to disappear too quickly from the water system, and aesthetic concerns such as taste and odour.
Hard water is water that has high mineral content (mainly calcium and magnesium ions) (in contrast with soft water). Hard water minerals primarily consist of calcium, and magnesium metal cations, and sometimes other dissolved compounds such as bicarbonates and sulfates. Calcium usually enters the water as either calcium carbonate, in the form of limestone and chalk, or calcium sulfate, in the form of other mineral deposits. The predominant source of magnesium is dolomite. Hard water is generally not harmful to one's health.
The World Health Organization says that "there does not appear to be any convincing evidence that water hardness causes adverse health effects in humans."
Soft water the term used to describe types of water that contain few or no calcium or magnesium metal cations. The term is usually related to hard water, which does contain significant amounts of these ions
Soft water usually comes from peat or igneous rock sources, such as granite but may also derive from sandstone sources, since such sedimentary rocks are usually low in calcium and magnesium. Water softened by sodium ion exchange will have a higher sodium ion content than the natural water it was derived from.
A water softener reduces the dissolved calcium, magnesium, and to some degree manganese and ferrous iron ion concentration in hard water. (A common water softener is sodium carbonate)
For people on a low-sodium diet, the increase in sodium levels (for systems releasing sodium) in the water can be significant, especially when treating very hard water. A paper by Kansas State University gives an example: "A person who drinks two litres (2L) of softened, extremely hard water (assume 30 gpg) will consume about 480 mg more sodium (2L x 30 gpg x 8 mg/L/gpg = 480 mg), than if unsoftened water is consumed." This is a significant amount, as they state: "The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that the 3 percent of the population who must follow a severe, salt-restricted diet should not consume more than 400 mg of sodium a day. AHA suggests that no more than 10 percent of this sodium intake should come from water. The EPA’s draft guideline of 20 mg/L for water protects people who are most susceptible." Most people who are concerned with the added sodium in the water generally have one tap (US: faucet) in the house that bypasses the softener, or have a reverse osmosis unit installed for the drinking water and cooking water, which was designed for desalinisation of sea water.
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