Steady flow of clean, potable water, even directly from the pipes, is a prominent characteristic across households in developed nations. However, this simple luxury of uninterrupted access to clean water is possible only through the efforts of researcher and chemist who have had to find various methods and processes to make sure the water supply is safe and ready for mass consumption
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In essence, water is not clean or potable directly from the source. In fact, many developing nations face a certain level of water shortage due to this reason. Studies suggest that over 2 billion of the global population do not have access to safe drinking water, generally due to lack of treatment methods or resources.
Owing to this dearth of a basic life component, various health and safety institutions across the globe like the WHO are now putting pressure on local municipalities and governments to adopt efficient and adequate water safety measures to bridge the demand-supply gap pertaining to clean water availability.
Among the many water treatment methods used to produce clean water, a prominent way is the use of biocides. Biocides refer to chemicals that are designed to exterminate organisms, particularly microorganisms at all sizes and life stages. There are two broad types of biocides available, oxidizing and non-oxidizing. One of the most common types of oxidizing biocides are halogen biocides.
Oxidizing biocides contain a group of chemicals known as halogens. This group consists of various reactive, nonmetallic elements, including chlorine, fluorine, iodine, bromine and astatine. The word halogen means “salt-producing”, which is indicative of the component’s reaction with metals.
Halogens are the only group of related elements that include representatives from each state of matter, i.e. liquid, solid and gas. For instance, in normal room temperature and pressure, fluorine and chlorine are in gas form, iodine and astatine are solid, while bromine is liquid.
The applications of halogens are multifold. Since these elements are highly reactive, halogens demonstrate excellent disinfectant properties. For instance, chlorine bleach and iodine tincture are prominent examples of halogen-based disinfectants.
These disinfectant properties also contribute significantly to the halogen biocides market. Halogen-based biocides are chemical formulations that are designed to deter, terminate, control or render harmless any harmful organisms. Oxidizing biocides with halogens like bromine or chlorine involve electrochemical processes which help exterminate microorganisms.
One of the halogens showing significant promise in biocide water treatment in the present scenario is chlorine dioxide.
Chlorine dioxide and its robust role in preventing Legionellosis
In 1976, at the American Legion Convention held in Philadelphia, over 221 of the attendees became ill and 34 succumbed to a bout of pneumonia caused by the then-unknown bacterium Legionella pneumophila. One of the most prominent waterborne diseases in the US, Legionellosis, also known as the Legionnaires’ Disease, is a respiratory infection that is contracted through the inhalation of mist or water droplets in the air containing Legionella pneumophila bacteria.
These contaminants are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and get deposited in the small pockets within the lungs, called alveoli.
Apart from the U.S., Legionellosis is a considerable health concern for many other nations which have plumbing as well as other water management systems. Since the disease is predominantly waterborne, one of the crucial ways to curb infection and spreading of the condition is to ensure proper water treatment.
Halogen-based biocides are considered the primary disinfectants for the treatment of water to mitigate the risk of Legionellosis. The most common halogen sources used for this biocide water treatment are chlorine dioxide, hypochlorite and chlorine gas, among others. Of these, chlorine dioxide, also known as ClO2, has been touted as highly effective in penetrating and exterminating the Legionella bacteria and other biofilms harbored in the water sources.
In fact, a study by The Building Services Research and Information Association or BSRIA, has recognized chlorine dioxide as the Best Available Technology for Legionella pneumophila control. Furthermore, an article in the May 2009 issue of the AWWA Journal, also described the results of two hospital studies which indicated the successful control of the Legionella bacteria using chlorine dioxide as a halogen biocide water treatment.
Drawing inspiration from this, UK-based water treatment company, Feedwater Ltd, which has been involved in preventing Legionnaires’ Disease for decades, developed a new process for chlorine dioxide production, dubbed Activ-Ox®. This patented process presents a safe and efficient ClO2 generation system that even non-specialists can implement.
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The Activ-Ox® process has enabled the instant production of nearly a 95% yield of chlorine dioxide using low hazard chemicals, which can be directly dissolved in the water that is to be treated. This accelerated production method has birthed a much safer and easier biocide dosing system for the effective water treatment and the subsequent prevention of Legionellosis.
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