Chlorine Taste and Smell

A common complaint from households that receive their drinking water from municipal water supplies, is experiencing a strong chlorine taste and smell. Some people are far more sensitive to water that has a chlorine taste and smell than others, and thus will detect this more readily.

Chlorine is added to municipal drinking water as a disinfectant to kill micro-organisms that could potentially pose a health risk to humans. While chlorine is thought to pose no health risks to humans in low doses, high levels of chlorine can cause eye and nose irritations; chlorine also dries out hair and skin, and can cause skin irritations in sensitive people. However, chlorine has the potential to combine with organic matter present in water to form byproducts that can pose a severe health risk to humans. Studies have shown that longterm exposure to high levels of chlorine can pose an increased risk of certain cancers – particularly colon, rectum, and bladder cancers – due to its carcinogenic properties.

The World Health Organization has set a standard of 5 milligrams per liter for chlorine in drinking water. While the 4 milligrams per liter standard set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for chlorine in drinking water falls under that, this is rather high when compared to the average chlorine levels for drinking water in England and Wales, for example, which are typically only between 0.5 – 1.0 milligrams per liter.

Short of having your drinking water tested, higher than normal levels of chlorine can only be detected when a strong chlorine taste and smell is detected. A very strong chlorine taste and smell emitting from drinking water can not only make water unpalatable, it could also be an indicator of unsafe levels of chlorine in your drinking water.

Chlorine levels may be higher in your drinking water if your home is situated close to your water treatment plant. Water treatment facilities have to balance the dosage to ensure adequate disinfection of water servicing the remote end of the network, while at the same time remaining within the safety parameters as set by the EPA guidelines for chlorine levels in drinking water.

To reduce the likelihood of chlorine taste and smell symptoms putting you off drinking water, only use water from the cold tap for drinking. 

If you are sensitive to chlorine taste and smell symptoms in your drinking water, it is advisable to cool water that is to be used for drinking in a refrigerator, and to replace the container with fresh water daily. A carbon activated drinking water filter can also be used to remove chlorine taste and smells – this will not only remove the chlorine taste and smells to render your drinking water odorless, and make it taste great; but as it will filter out the chlorine chemicals, it will also give you peace of mind that the water you are drinking is safe to drink.


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