Locals mobilise against chemical disinfection

Saturday June 29, 2019 Written by Published in National
Tangiiau Kirkwood washes the mud off after playing outside. The newly formed Vai Ora’anga Ora – Water of Life group say chlorination can have a harmful eff ect on the future generation as well. 19062811 Tangiiau Kirkwood washes the mud off after playing outside. The newly formed Vai Ora’anga Ora – Water of Life group say chlorination can have a harmful eff ect on the future generation as well. 19062811

A group has been formed to mobilise opposition to chlorine in Rarotonga’s piped water.

 The group, Vai Ora’anga Ora (water of life), is advocating clean, safe water. It is opposing chemical disinfection of water.

The Te Mato Vai project management unit has recommended chlorination as the most suitable disinfection option for Rarotonga, but said the government would make the final decision.

And earlier this month, deputy prime minister Mark Brown told Parliament that they would not hesitate to use chlorination if it was scientifically proven to be the best of all the options.

Vai Ora’anga Ora comprises 11 concerned residents: Anna Rasmussen, Tere Carr, Teina and Jackie Rongo, Justine Flanagan and Andy Kirkwood, Paul Allsworth, Phillip Nicholas, Robert Wigmore, Donna Smith and Teariki Matenga.

The group said all they wanted was clean, safe water – but chlorine was not the solution.

“Our government has told us we need to add chlorine because our water is 'bad'. But we're not sick.  Our Vairakau Maori practitioners are clear – chemicals are not for human consumption.”

World-wide, researchers were questioning the impact of chlorine on health – on digestion, immunity, and fertility, they said. Chemicals were absorbed rapidly through the skin and lungs, and chlorine was more toxic at warmer temperatures.

“The long-term risks include an increase in birth defects and cancer. These long term risks will be inherited by our children.”

The group cited the US Council on Environmental Quality, claiming it had found the cancer risk to people who drank chlorinated water was 93 per cent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.

“Here in Rarotonga less than a per cent is used for drinking, but all of our water supply will be chlorinated which will affect our land, waterways and our lagoon,” the group said.

“We’ve been told ‘it's only a small amount of chlorine’. But that ‘small amount’ is enough to kill. And chlorine doesn’t just kill bacteria, it’s strong enough to kill our tuna, our koura vai.

“Broken pipes leak into our streams, wetlands, lagoon and ocean. We are the custodians of these fragile ecosystems and the world we pass on to our children. Chlorine kills the microbes that keep plants healthy. That means less local fruit-and-vege and more pesticides. Organic export crops cannot be irrigated with toxic chemicals. Vanilla and noni growers are affected.”

Brent Manning, the chief executive officer of To Tatou Vai, said they would release a joint statement with the health ministry and Te Mato Vai project management unit on this new group next week.


Does chlorine cause cancer?

The anti-chlorine group Vai Ora’anga Ora cites the US Council on Environmental Quality, claiming it had found the cancer risk to people

who drank chlorinated water was 93 per cent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.

In fact, the Council’s report was referring only to the less-common rectal cancer, which was between 13 and 93 per cent more common in people who drank chlorinated water.

The Council’s report also stressed that chlorine itself was not the likely culprit, but rather, organic compounds like chloroform that form when chlorine combined with natural and man-made organic material such as fertilisers, often also in rural supplies.

The Council found the increased risk of rectal cancer was outweighed by the lives saved by eliminating water-borne infections.

“Chlorine almost single handedly relegated water-borne diseases to the bottom of the list of causes of death in this country,” said Robert Harris, a member of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Not using chlorine is not the issue. We can use it in a less risky way.”

1 comment

  • Comment Link Andy Kirkwood Wednesday, 03 July 2019 14:55 posted by Andy Kirkwood

    Full release from Vai Ora'anaga Ora - including medical research references.

    Chlorine works as a disinfectant by bonding with micro-organisms - the result is that it kills or inactivates microbes and prevents them from reproducing.

    The health impacts of chlorine are similarly a result of the chemicals reacting with organic matter. In water-supply systems, the compounds formed by interaction with chlorine are referred to as 'disinfection by-products' - or DBPs. Countries such as the US have regulations stipulating the 'permitted' levels of DBPs in drinking water due to the known health impacts.

    As chlorine is rarely part of balanced diet, the human health impacts of chlorine are commonly observed in our 'filtering' organs - which remove harmful substances from the liquids and food that we consume. Researchers look for cancers of the kidney, liver and intestines.

    Chlorine is also absorbed rapidly through the skin and lungs. There is an increase in the rate of absorption and toxicity of chlorine at higher temperatures: hot showers, steam rooms.

    Chloramine (chlorine + ammonia + nitrogen) can be formed when active chlorine interacts with organic material (more common when surface water is collected for water supply). If chloramine is not filtered out of the water used for dialysis treatment/diabetes patients, in the blood stream it kills red blood cells faster than they can be produced this condition is called 'Hemolytic anemia'.

    With our high rate of NCDs the addition of chlorine to all the water in Rarotonga may impact upon our families and health service providers.

    Along with our health, chlorination will affect our growers and our environment. Our government has not evaluated the long-term impacts.

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