Chlorine: Is it really so bad and what are the alternatives?

  • DJ Nozaic


Chlorine disinfection has been practised for over a century and has been credited with saving a significant number of lives worldwide on a daily basis, but it has received a great deal of negative publicity over the past few decades. The discovery in the 1970\'s that chlorination of water could result in the formation of potentially harmful trihalomethanes (THMs) caused concern amongst the water treatment fraternity and resulted in authorities reviewing chlorination practices in order to minimise THM formation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) setting maximum concentration limits for THMs in potable water. Many of the manufacturers and suppliers of water “purifiers” and alternative disinfectants exploit this information to their own advantage, misinforming the public regarding the dangers of chlorine, but even in the water treatment industry, chlorine is often misunderstood. Based on their experience in both water and wastewater disinfection and on the findings of a Water Research Commission (WRC) sponsored project into alternative disinfectants, the authors discuss the benefits and disadvantages of chlorine disinfection and compare this to the more promising alternative disinfectants. One of the main perceived advantages is the property of chlorine to maintain a residual and although THM formation can occur under these conditions, the compounds produced are perceptibly less toxic than those produced by some of the alternatives. A number of alternatives, including ozone, UV, peracetic acid, bromine and advanced oxidation are compared to chlorine in terms of their disinfectant abilities, residual effect, by-product formation, cost and ease of use.

Water SA Vol. 30 (5) 2002: pp.18-24

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0378-4738