Chlorine a key tool in preventing cholera in war-torn South Sudan

Posted on July 22, 2016

The UN is working to prevent an outbreak of deadly cholera in South Sudan; an area which has been in crisis since late 2013.

It is suspected that at the moment, nearly 150 people in South Sudan already have cholera. Many people area already in refugee camps but wider access to safe, clean drinking water is still difficult due to the conflict. Whilst UNICEF is delivering safe drinking water, it is challenging to provide medical supplies, sanitation and to raise community awareness, all of which are also essential in preventing an epidemic.

In an attempt to protect the population of the South Sudan as a whole, the UN Mission (UNMISS) and their partners are continuing to supply daily water supplies. This water is treated with chlorine in order to disinfect the water and keep it free from harmful microorganisms, such as those that cause cholera.

More on this story can be found here.

Chlorine products essential in cleaning up after flooding

Posted on July 6, 2016

This year there have been many high-profile flooding events in North America, Europe and South Asia. Alongside the terrible loss of human life and property, it is essential that the clean-up begins soon after the event to prevent further loss of life due to water-borne disease.

According to a recent article by the Water Quality and Health Council (WQ&HC), it should be assumed that all flood waters are contaminated with such diseases. As such, once the flood waters have been removed and the affected areas are dry and clear of surface dirt/ debris, a disinfecting solution of water and chlorine bleach should be used. Wearing gloves and protective equipment should also help protect people from flood water splashes and subsequent disease whilst cleaning.

The WQ&HC recommend that the bleach solutions should contain 3/4 cup (~150 ml) regular strength chlorine bleach or 1/2 (~120ml) cup concentrated bleach to one US gallon (around 3.8 l of water) to disinfect walls, floors and other surfaces. Leaving such surfaces wet for at least 10 minutes will help correct disinfection. Also replacing the bleach solution as it becomes cloudy will help reduce the chance of microbial contamination.

‘The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives’

Posted on October 27, 2015

This is the title of a book written by Dr. Michael J. McGuire and edited by the American Water Works Association in 2013. It describes the fascinating history of chlorine use for drinking water disinfection in the United States of America. The chlorination of drinking water is accepted worldwide as an effective way to kill deadly pathogens; but at the turn of the 20th Century, adding chlorine to water was considered revolutionary, even heretical by science, until a courageous physician proved that it could be done.

Perhaps no other advancement of public health has been as significant. Yet, few know the intriguing story of how a (retrospectively) simple idea, disinfecting public water systems with chlorine could, in just 100 years, save more lives than any other single health development in human history.

Dr. McGuire’s book also tells how, during the American Civil War which started in 1861, waterborne disease killed more soldiers than bullets! How in 1915 child death rate in the US was at 10 per cent and up to 30% in some cities due to contaminated milk; and how life expectancy in the US was 47 years in 1900 but by 1984 this rose to 70 years all due to chlorination!

At the turn of the 20th century, most scientists and doctors called the addition of chloride of lime, a “poisonous chemical”, to public water supplies not only a “preposterous idea” but also an “illegal act”, until a courageous physician, Dr. John L. Leal, working with George W. Fuller, the era’s greatest sanitary engineer, proved that it could be done safely and effectively on a large scale.

This is the first book to tell the incredible true story of the first use of chlorine to disinfect a city water supply, in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1908. This important book also corrects misinformation long-held in the historical record about who was responsible for this momentous event, giving overdue recognition to the unsung hero of the story, an unflagging champion of public health, Dr. John L. Leal.

Dr. McGuire gave an interesting, well received, presentation of this important book at the WCC New Delhi meeting of last October 15th.

Back to Top