Chlorinated Water Supplies And Healthy Gut Microbiomes In Children

By Stephen M June 28, 2022

As climate change-induced droughts keep increasing worldwide, access to clean potable water is also becoming a lot harder. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that the world losses more than 2000 children due to the lack of potable drinking water.

To address this phenomenon, Engineers at Tufts and others have developed a basic, cost-effective way to purify water. The development focused on low-income countries relies on chlorine, despite the various concerns that chlorinated water can be harmful to the development of gut microbiomes in children.  

Image credit: avijit bouri/ Shutterstock

However, research has found that adding chlorine to water doesn’t affect the normal population of bacteria in children’s digestive tracts. The study was carried out in Dhaka and Bangladesh by Tufts, Eawag in Switzerland, the University of California at Berkeley, and the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh.

One year after installing the dispensers, the researchers collected children’s stool samples to test the microbiomes. It was found that the stool of children who used chlorinated water had almost the same level of bacteria as those who didn’t. The differences detected included the enhancement of beneficial bugs and some antibiotic resistance genes increment. However, such cases were minor as they had a similar general buildup of the microbiomes.

Chlorine is believed to incapacitate the microorganisms in water, but according to the study, it doesn’t kill good bacteria. Instead, it helps the children’s microbiome after killing the harmful bacteria in the water.

Importance of the gut microbiome

An unhindered development of gut microbiomes is very important for children’s health, especially in the early years. By age three, a child’s gut microbiomes should have grown to their matured state.

Image credit: paul prescott/ Shutterstock

A research assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering at Tufts, Maya Nadimpalli, indicated that “further may be helpful for understanding all the long-term health effects of drinking chlorinated water.” “But this study makes it clear that the microbiome is protected after at least one year of exposure so that the benefits of water chlorination—which can save hundreds of thousands of lives each year—continue to outweigh diminishing concerns about its safety” she added.