What are Chloramines?

Chloramines are disinfectants used to treat drinking water and are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. The ammonia bonds to the Chlorine and in doing so changes the chemical properties; they call this combination Chloramines.

Why are some public water districts using Chloramines?

Chloramines provide longer-lasting disinfection as the as the water moves through pipes to consumers.

Chloramines have been used by water utilities since the 1930s. More than one in five Americans uses drinking water treated with chloramines. Many public water systems use chlorine as their secondary disinfectant. However, some have changed their secondary disinfectant to chloramines to meet disinfection byproduct requirements. Since then, consumers have raised questions about this switch in disinfection.

Effects of Chloramine on Human Health

Immune System Problems

Chloramine cannot kill the pathogens in the water as well as chlorine.

As a result, people with suppressed immune systems must have their water boiled over TEN minutes BEFORE use to kill pathogens, or they risk becoming ill.

Those at risk include children under 6 months of age, the elderly, those on or who have had chemotherapy, people with HIV or AIDS, organ transplant patients, and others with a weakened immune system.

Respiratory Problems

  • Chloramine can cause and/or aggravate respiratory problems.
  • Chloramine fumes can cause an individual to become congested and cause sneezing, sinus congestion, coughing, choking, wheezing, shortness of breath, and asthma.
  • Chloramine damages mucous membranes. The lung damage in those exposed to chloramine in indoor pool air is similar to that seen in regular smokers.
  • Chloraminated vapor from showers, baths, hot tubs, dishwashers, and other household appliances contains volatilized chemicals that can be inhaled and cause irritation to the respiratory tract.
  • Inhaled chloraminated vapor can enter the bloodstream directly through the lungs. It bypasses the digestive tract where the SFPUC says it is broken down and excreted.

Skin Problems

Chloramine tap water can cause severe skin reactions:

  • rashing
  • dry skin
  • itching
  • flaking
  • welting
  • blistering
  • chapping
  • burning sensation
  • cracking
  • scarring
  • bleeding
  • pigmentation

Chloramine can aggravate other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Chloramine can cause bleeding lips, dry mouth and dry throat.

Chloramine can cause burning, red, and dry eyes.

Skin exposure to ammonia “breaks down cell structural proteins, extracts water from the cells and initiates an inflammatory response, which further damages the surrounding tissues.”

Digestive and Gastric Problems

Chloramine damages digestive mucosa.

Chloramine can aggravate digestive disorders.

Kidney and Blood Problems

  • Persons with liver or kidney disease and those with hereditary urea cycle disorders are at increased risk for ammonia toxicity from the consumption of chloraminated water.
  • Kidney dialysis patients cannot use chloraminated water in their dialysis machines because it will cause hemolytic anemia.
  • Chloramine must be completely removed from the water in dialysis treatment using extensive carbon filtration and a reverse osmosis or Cation filtering system to remove both chlorine and ammonia from the water.
  • There are populations that are unusually susceptible to ammonia reactivity or toxicity due to factors such as genetic makeup, age, health status, etc.

Plumbing Problems and Some Implications for Health

  • Chloramine can cause leaching of lead from lead pipes, lead soldering and from so called “lead free” brass plumbing parts.
  • Chloramine can cause pinhole pitting in copper pipes. Leaks from the pinholes can cause mold to grow. Some molds are highly toxic to humans and can endanger the health of individuals, often permanently.
  • Chloramine can cause rubber corrosion of rubber plumbing parts like toilet flappers and rubber casings.
  • Rubber corroded parts need to be replaced with chloramine resistant parts such as synthetic polymer.
  • Rubber corrosion can be spotted as early as 6 months after chloramine has been added to the water supply. Signs of corrosion can be seen when little black specks appear in the water from plumbing parts.
  • The thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in plumbing repair costs caused by chloramine are passed on to property owners.

How do I remove Chloramines from my household water?

Removing Chloramines at the whole house level is recommended to ensure all taps are being treated throughout the house. All of our whole house systems use a media called Centaur Carbon. This activated carbon can be used to remove chlorine and chloramines along with other organic contaminants and particles to help ensure water meets process requirements. Catalytic activated carbons provide faster reaction rates than conventional carbons, requiring smaller adsorption equipment and less carbon in use.

Need help choosing the right system for your needs – click here for Help Me Choose.