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October 11 marks the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child. This United Nations (UN) milestone recognizes the rights of girls and the unique challenges they face around the world. Among these challenges is the responsibility that many girls have to collect household water for their families. In fact, girls and women are the water carriers in 80 percent of water-deprived households, according to the UN. The time and energy required to procure water, often by walking substantial distances carrying heavy loads, and in some cases risking assault, can have a devastating effect on a girl’s education, and therefore, her future.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6 of the UN 2030 Agenda aspires to provide safely managed drinking water and sanitation for all people by 2030. The 2022 Report on the UN SDGs indicates two billion people lacked safely managed drinking water in 2020; by 2030, this number is estimated to fall to 1.6 billion. While representing progress, that is, unfortunately, far short of the SDG #6 timeline for universal access. Life without safely managed drinking water is fraught with the risk of waterborne disease. Safely managed drinking water, including treatment with chlorine-based disinfectants, is a major contributor to good public health.
An interesting feature of the SDGs is their interconnectivity: Progress made toward achieving one goal often has a positive effect on the achievement of one or more of the others. For example, in making headway toward universal safely managed drinking water (SDG #6), SDG #3 (good health and well-being) and SDG #8 (decent work and economic growth) are advanced. As the world progresses toward SDG #6, the heavy burden of water procurement will be lifted from the shoulders of girls in developing nations, helping to further gender equality (SDG #5) through equal access to education. It will be a significant step forward for girls in their rightful quest to reach their fullest human potential.
One hundred and fourteen years ago this September 26, an American city became the first in the nation to provide chlorinated drinking water to consumers on a continuous basis. Conceived by Dr. John L. Leal, a physician and advisor to the Jersey City Water Supply Company, chlorination of city water was a bold science-based experiment in public health.
At the turn of the last century, public health was poor in large cities such as Jersey City. Waterborne illness, especially typhoid fever, was rampant. High rates of waterborne illnesses exacted a terrible toll in human life and suffering. In a dramatic court proceeding, the Jersey City water company was given 90 days to propose a method to purify its drinking water. The water had been shown to be microbiologically unhealthful. Dr. Leal worked rapidly with other experts to develop a system to add chlorine to the water supply as it exited the city’s reservoir and flowed to consumer taps. The first chlorinated water arrived in homes, schools, and businesses on September 26, 1908.
As the typhoid fever rate in Jersey City plummeted, public health became the clear winner. Given the glowing example provided by Dr. Leal and his colleagues, drinking water chlorination spread like wildfire across the US and to many areas globally. The results of the new technology were astounding: a 2005 study concluded clean water was responsible for large declines in deaths in major US cities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The authors report, “A striking finding is that clean water technologies appear to have reduced typhoid fever by 26% initially and by another 65% after five years, leading to its near-eradication by 1936.” Continuous drinking water chlorination of US municipal water has been a resounding public health success!
This World Water Week (23 August – 1 September), the World Chlorine Council joins the global community in highlighting the great value of safe drinking water to every human being on Earth. The theme of this year’s milestone “Seeing the unseen: The value of water,” may serve as an eye-opener to those who have given little thought to that life-giving liquid that flows freely and inexpensively from their household taps. In contrast, many residents of developing countries find it necessary to devote several hours per week to procuring water for their families from central collection areas. Access to water that is free of waterborne pathogens, thanks to treatment with chlorine-based disinfectants, for example, is life-changing. It contributes to the good health of families and helps remove obstacles to their education and gainful employment.
Sustainable Development Goal #6 of the United Nation’s (UN’s) 2030 Agenda includes the target of providing universal access to safely managed drinking water. According to the 2022 Sustainable Development Goals Report, the proportion of the global population using safely managed drinking water in 2020 was 74%. By 2030, the aspirational deadline for the 17 Goals, the UN estimates this figure will rise to 81%. That’s not 100%, and more work needs to be done. The World Chlorine Council recognizes international aid organizations, such as Water Mission, Children’s Nutrition Program of Haiti, and Water Engineers for the Americas and Africa, that continue to deliver the gift of clean water to communities in need. The volunteers who work selflessly on behalf of these organizations are doing the important work of opening eyes to the life-transforming value of safe, disinfected drinking water.
 “Safely managed” drinking water services are defined as “drinking water from an improved water source which is located on premises, available when needed and free of faecal and priority contamination,” according to the World Health Organization.
Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. As of 5 August 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted 28,220 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide in the current outbreak. While our knowledge of this outbreak continues to develop, scientists tell us that monkeypox is not as easily spread as COVID-19. According to WHO, the “monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.” Unlike its deadlier relative, smallpox, monkeypox commonly presents as a mild disease, although it too has the potential to cause severe illness. Symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a painful or itchy rash with what appear to be pimples or blisters.
The monkeypox virus can survive in linens, clothing and on environmental surfaces, according to CDC. Fabrics should be contained until laundered, and if possible, people with monkeypox should handle and launder their own soiled laundry. Laundering can be done in a standard washing machine with detergent; laundry sanitizers are not necessary, according to CDC. In contrast, the CDC recommends disinfecting all areas where a person with monkeypox has spent time, including all items potentially contaminated by that person, such as “tables, countertops, door handles, toilet flush handles, light switches, and floors.” Among other disinfectants, the virus can be substantially inactivated on contaminated surfaces by a chlorine bleach solution prepared by adding 100 milliliters of approximately 6% (by weight) liquid bleach to 1 liter of water. The solution should remain on the surface for one full minute. As with all disinfection procedures, environmental surfaces should be cleaned with detergent and water before they are disinfected.
In early 2020, we described how a diluted bleach solution could be used to destroy SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces. As the world community now contends with monkeypox, it is good to know that common household bleach can be used to help reduce the spread of yet another virus of global concern.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designates each July 28 “World Hepatitis Day.” The purpose of this observance is to raise awareness of the various forms of hepatitis, a disease that affects the human liver. Globally, a person dies from a hepatitis-related illness every 30 seconds, according to the WHO. The 2022 theme of World Hepatitis Day is “I Can’t Wait,” highlighting the importance of testing and treatment for this disease. The theme is also meant to amplify “the voices of people affected by viral hepatitis calling for immediate action and the end of stigma and discrimination.”
This year the World Chlorine Council is marking World Hepatitis Day by promoting a free, downloadable poster (in metric and Imperial or U.S. customary units) to help stem the spread of one common form of hepatitis, hepatitis A. People become exposed to the virus via the fecal-to-oral route, including by ingesting contaminated food or water. The virus can spread rapidly, especially under crowded and unsanitary living conditions. The poster provides simple, “pictogram” directions for mixing an appropriate amount of chlorine bleach and water to make a solution that can be applied to contaminated surfaces, such as toilets and countertops, to destroy the virus. Along with available vaccines and good sanitary practices, such as frequent handwashing, surface disinfection with chlorine bleach is an effective means of combating the spread of hepatitis A.
The world community will celebrate the vast bodies of Earth’s salt water on World Oceans Day (June 8). Oceans cover more than 70% of our “Blue Planet,” and in the words of the United Nations, connect, sustain, and support us all.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean.” As the theme implies, protecting and revitalizing our oceans is a multi-faceted endeavor incorporating the efforts of diverse sectors. This includes the chlorine chemistry industry.
One of the serious threats to the sustainability of marine ecosystems is the proliferation of non native invasive species through the exchange of ship ballast water. Ballast water, used to improve a ship’s stability, often includes aquatic life forms taken in at one point in the ocean and released at another point where they may disrupt the natural ecosystem. This problem has been addressed through the International Maritime Organization’s Ballast Water Management Convention. As a result of the Convention, by 2024, tens of thousands of ships worldwide will be required to have an approved ballast water management plan.
Ballast water management plans include treating ballast water before it is released to avoid the spread of invasive species. Treatment may be one of several physical (e.g., heat or filtration) or chemical (e.g., chlorine- or ozone-based disinfection) methods. The treatment option chosen for each ship is based on that ship’s characteristics, including the amount of space available for the necessary equipment. In the case of chlorination treatment, the subsequent dechlorination of the treated water helps prevent unwanted chemical byproducts. Protecting marine ecosystems through ballast water treatment is a giant step forward in boosting the health of the oceans. This World Oceans Day, the chlorine industry is proud to have a role in this critical sustainability effort.
This World Water Day (March 22) our attention is directed to a magnificent, but invisible, resource below our feet: groundwater. Drawn by the force of gravity, rainwater and snowmelt accumulate over the years in pores and fractures in Earth’s subsurface rocks and sediments to form extensive underground aquifers of groundwater. Billions of people around the world rely on wells to tap these aquifers for their drinking, cooking, bathing, agricultural and industrial needs. This year’s World Water Day theme, “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible,” shines a spotlight on this “invisible” resource.
Protecting groundwater for sustainable use is a matter of preventing pollution in the watershed and avoiding withdrawing water from aquifers more quickly than it can be replenished by nature. Is groundwater pristine? Not always. Pathogens may infiltrate groundwater through leaking wastewater pipes, septic systems, or even livestock waste in agricultural areas. That is why groundwater is frequently treated with chlorine-based disinfectants before use. These disinfectants safely destroy waterborne microorganisms that can spread disease, saving countless lives globally.
Groundwater may be out of sight, but thanks to this year’s World Water Day focus, people around the world will be encouraged to learn about and be mindful of this critical resource.
Click here to download the 2022 Euro Chlor Eco-profile report, which sets out the environmental Impacts along the production chain from “cradle to gate”. Since the last report was issued in 2013, we are proud to announce that:
In 2013, Euro Chlor published its first Eco-profile report with data from with 2011. Specialized external consultant ifeu, prepared this 2022 Eco-profile of the main chlor-alkali products (chlorine, caustic soda, hydrogen, and hypochlorite). The work has been critically reviewed by an expert office (DEKRA) and approved according to the PlasticsEurope Eco-profiles programme and methodology – V3.0 (2019). The results of this “cradle to gate” study integrates the production of salt/ brine and electricity, as well as of the utilities and other materials used in the process. More information can be found at https://www.eurochlor.org/topics/sustainability/ecoprofile or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bleach (also known as chlorine bleach, Javelle Water or sodium hypochlorite) is vital in keeping our homes and communities clean. It also helps to disinfect and has a role in protecting us against the neagative health effects of many common bacteria and viruses.
However, it must be used responsibly and always under the direction provided on the label of the bottle it comes in.
Further, due to its chemistry, it is most safely mixed only with water and should never be mixed with other products such as ammonia, acids, alcohols, peroxide and some fuels and oils. Accidental mixing of these products can release gases which, if you breathe these gases in, may mean that you will need medical attention.
On 9 and 10 November, the World Chlorine Council (WCC) held its online Safety seminar with around 80 participants joining from all global regions. The event included presentations from regional associations and also from company members from around the world. Planning has already begun for the 2022 WCC Safety Seminar, which will hopefully be a face-to-face meeting.
More information on this event will be available from WCC soon.