November 2017

Potable and sanitary water systems: which materials and systems are most resistant to chlorine?

Chlorine and its compounds for disinfection are increasingly present in water intended for human consumption. What materials and supply systems are the "most compatible" with these substances? Especially from the viewpoint of human health...
Supply systems and materials used for transporting potable water: today the water the comes out of our taps is treated to a greater and greater extent with chlorine-based substances for normal disinfection.
What effect can these substances have on the longevity of the systems? Above all, can certain materials used for the pipes release substances that are hazardous to human health with the passage of water containing chlorine compounds?

Best pipes for drinking water

Disinfection of tap water is a common practice. Certain chemical substances, mainly chlorine-based ones, are added daily to the water that comes from our taps.

Plus, inside potable water systems in buildings, "shock" treatments are sometimes performed with rather high doses of chlorine-based substances (even more so for locations at a risk of contamination, such as hospitals).
These operations prevent the proliferation of bacteria, some of which are very dangerous, such as legionella.

Legionella Bacteria

A huge problem for pipes used for water intended for human consumption: legionella bacteria

Legionellosis is a serious respiratory illness. The bacteria that cause it can proliferate in water pipes, if certain conditions are met such as a temperature between 20° C and 45° C and the presence of biofilm, organic sediment the offers an ideal environment for legionella bacteria.

Chlorine-based substances used for disinfection, can erode many materials used to build pipes intended for conveying water.
These compounds can be very aggressive, especially if introduced in overly high dosages. In fact, they could seriously damage the systems.

AISI 316L stainless steel and resistance to chlorine compounds for disinfection

AISI 316L stainless steel pressfitting fittings

AISI 316L stainless steel used for Eurotubi pressfittings and pipes offers increased resistance to treatments with chlorine-based compounds, provided that the prescribed doses are respected.

Plastic pipes in polyethylene derivatives and water treated with chlorine compounds

Compared to stainless steel, polyethylene pipes, both reticulated (PEX) and especially non-reticulated (PE-RT), have a limited longevity, particularly if used in "harsh conditions". One example is where there are high pressures and temperatures along with a strong presence of chlorine-based compounds in the water, for normal disinfection.

PEX piping and dangers to human health

Various studies have shown that the passage of water containing chlorine compounds inside many pipes made of plastic materials, can lead to precocious ageing of the pipes, with all its inherent problems.

Finally, some very worrying studies have shown that the passage of chlorine dioxide used for disinfection inside certain PEX pipes can increase the release of highly hazardous "endocrine destroying" substances into the water we drink.

You can learn more about this topic in this scientific publication: "Long-term study of the migration of volatile organic compounds from reticulated polyethylene pipes (PEX) and the effects on the quality of potable water".

Page 9 - download PDF here.

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