Can you get cancer from chlorine if you steam your food?!
Take a look at the viral claim, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : Steaming Food Can Cause Cancer From Chlorine!
This advice by a Chinese professor keeps going viral on WhatsApp, and social media platforms:
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No Evidence Steaming Food Can Cause Cancer From Chlorine!
This is yet another example of FAKE NEWS circulating on WhatsApp and social media, and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : There Is No Chlorine Gas In Tap Water
First, I should point out that tap water does not actually contain chlorine gas. Chlorine gas may be used to disinfect tap water, but it is quickly transformed into other chemicals that actually disinfect the water – hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite anion.
The common usage of chlorine (or free chlorine) in tap water really refers to these chemical compounds, and not chlorine gas itself. There is certainly no chlorine gas inside tap water.
Fact #2 : Regulated Tap Water Has Low Levels Of Chlorine
Tap water in most countries only has low levels of chlorine – between 0.2 to 1 mg per litre, although it may go as high as 4 mg per litre – four parts per million.
Fact #3 : Water With Too Much Chlorine Is Undrinkable
In places where the levels of chlorine in the tap water is poorly regulated, it may be possible for the tap water to have too high levels of chlorine – anything above 4 mg per litre – four parts per million.
Even if you do not have professional testing on hand, you can look out for signs of too much chlorine in the water:
- the water smells or tastes like swimming pool water
- you experience nausea, diarrhoea, or vomiting after drinking the water
I should point out that swimming pools have an upper limit of 5 mg per litre – five parts per million, while spas can go as high as 10 mg per litre. You can taste the chlorine in the water, but even then, it is not dangerous to accidentally swallow some of the water, although it is distasteful.
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Fact #4 : Chlorine Evaporates Naturally From Tap Water
What people may not realise is that chlorine is volatile and evaporates naturally from tap water over a day or so.
If you leave a glass of tap water in the open, it should be pretty much chlorine-free after a day or so.
Fact #5 : Chlorine In Tap Water Evaporates When Heated
The vapour pressure of chlorine is much lower than that of water, so it will evaporate by the time your tap water starts boiling.
The evaporated chlorine “escapes” with the steam, and doesn’t coat your food as claimed, because… its vapour pressure is lower than that of water!
So the risk of getting cancer from chlorine is lower, if not eradicated, by steaming or boiling tap water.
Fact #6 : Only Certain Water Filters Can Remove Free Chlorine
The typical particle filters will not remove free chlorine. Only water filters using reverse osmosis and/or active carbon filters can remove free chlorine from tap water.
So the advice to just use filtered water is not accurate, as the filtered water will likely still contain chlorine (unless it uses reverse osmosis / carbon filtration)
Fact #7 : Carcinogenicity Of Chlorine Has Not Been Determined
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not classified chlorine regarding its human carcinogenicity.
That’s likely because chlorine is an irritant, and it is unlikely for humans to willingly consume large amounts of it.
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Fact #8 : Trihalomethanes Are The Real Risk, Not Chlorine
Chlorine may react with organic matter in the water to produce compounds like trihalomethanes, such as chloroform, dibromochloromethane (DBCM), bromodichloromethane (BDCM), and Bromoform.
These trihalomethane compounds are potential human carcinogens. These are the compounds that pose a potential health risk, and not the free chlorine in tap water itself.
However, the level of trihalomethane compounds in well-regulated tap water is very low, so the real risk occurs when there is poor regulation of tap water.
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