What is Chloramine and Why Should I Care if it’s In My Water?

While chlorine has traditionally been the most common water disinfectant, used to control microorganisms and pathogens that cause diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, it is not without problems. Chlorine has been found to cause disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Some of these byproducts are linked to cancer in lab animals. One of the byproducts, trihalomethanes (THMs) are believed to be the cause of as much as 17% of bladder cancers diagnosed in the U.S. every year.

Now many municipalities are turning to chloramine to disinfect water.   It is created by adding ammonia to drinking water containing chlorine. Because chloramine is a weaker disinfectant vs. chlorine, it remains more effective in our water distribution pipelines for a longer period of time. Chloramine also creates much lower levels of DBPs. For these reasons, many water utilities have switched their preferred method of disinfection to chloramine.

However, using chloramine has some distinct disadvantages of its own. For example, it can release lead from metal corrosion, biofilms, and nitrification, to say nothing of its health effects. While the U.S. EPA says that chloramine is safe to drink, bathe in, and cook with, it acknowledges that those with chemical sensitivity to it can have side effects such as skin problems. Further, those with weak immune systems, such as transplant or AIDS patients, should not drink chloraminated water. It must also be removed prior to being used in kidney dialysis machines. Chloramine can be dangerous to infants when it gets converted to nitrate through naturally occurring bacteria in the water.

Chloramine can also cause pinhole leaks in plumbing and can react with certain rubber hoses and gaskets and cause swelling, and black or greasy particles. In restaurants, it has been known to cause issues with ice machines and coffee makers.

It is also toxic to fish, amphibians and water-based reptiles.

Many water utilities are moving to chloramine disinfection. Some switch back and forth between chlorine and chloramine. Make sure you’re protected. Get a system that removes both chlorine and chloramine.

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