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Celebrating 115 Years of Safe Drinking Water

Erich Shea

Today, on September 26, 2023, we celebrate a historic milestone: the 115th anniversary of continuous chlorine disinfection in U.S. public water supplies. This momentous event, which transformed American public health, unfolded in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Safe, accessible drinking water, made possible through water treatment, is often taken for granted. However, this achievement didn't happen overnight and traces back to Jersey City.

In the early 1900s, using chlorine to treat drinking water was groundbreaking. It led to a significant reduction in waterborne diseases, with Dr. John L. Leal playing a crucial role.

Jersey City faced high rates of waterborne diseases, especially among children. Dr. Leal, a physician and health officer, proposed adding a small amount of "chloride of lime" to drinking water, a revolutionary idea.

High-profile court cases paved the way for Dr. Leal and engineer George Warren Fuller to put this concept to the test. By 1914, 53% of U.S. public water supplies used chlorinated water.

While we celebrate this achievement, we must remember that the battle for clean water continues. @WHO reports 361,000 children under 5 die annually due to inadequate access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. Let's join UN in pursuing Sustainable Development Goal 6—clean water and sanitation for all, a crucial step toward other SDGs. The mission to save lives through chlorine disinfection remains as crucial as ever. #CleanWater #PublicHealth #SDG6


American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council’s mission is to advocate for the people, policy, and products of chemistry that make the United States the global leader in innovation and manufacturing. To achieve this, we: Champion science-based policy solutions across all levels of government; Drive continuous performance improvement to protect employees and communities through Responsible Care®; Foster the development of sustainability practices throughout ACC member companies; and Communicate authentically with communities about challenges and solutions for a safer, healthier and more sustainable way of life. Our vision is a world made better by chemistry, where people live happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives, safely and sustainably—for generations to come.

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