Since the implementation of chloramine disinfection by municipal water agencies, many, many stories have surfaced regarding their efficacy and safety.

Chloramines have been around since the 1930s, but when they were widely introduced over 15 years ago, the claims made were for better efficiency and less disinfection by-products. The particular type of chloramines used in drinking water disinfection, monochloramine, is mixed into water in levels that kill germs but is still safe to drink. To this day, the EPA defends the usage of chloramine disinfection, in spite of its controversy in existence for many years.

Documented Side Affects from Chloramine Disinfection

It has been well documented on the side affects of chloramine disinfection. Even the EPA discusses these potential problems in their web site:

  • Chloramines are all respiratory irritants with trichloramine being the most toxic (order of toxicity: monochloramine < dichloramine < trichloramine-most severe.)
  • In contrast to what water utilities claim, it is impossible to have only monochloramine. It is not unusual in water systems for harmful di and trichloramines to occur.
  • Chloramines actually create some of their own by-products, the original claims made for their introduction.
  • Chloramine stays in the water system longer than chlorine and is difficult to remove—it can’t be removed by boiling, distilling, or by standing uncovered. Its vapors can accumulate in indoor air and concentrate in an enclosed area, such as your shower stall, bathroom, kitchen, or apartment. Chloramines combine with organic matter in water supplies to create iodoacids and nitrosamines, which are extremely toxic. According to David Sedlak of UC Berkeley: “Nitrosamines are the compounds that people warned you about when they told you shouldn’t be eating those nitrite-cured hot dogs… They’re about a thousand times more carcinogenic than the disinfection byproducts that we’d been worried about with regular old chlorine.”
  • High amounts of ammonia serve as nutrients for nitrifying bacteria in the water, which can cause nitrate levels in the water to rise. Nitrate is converted to nitrite in the stomach. Nitrites can react to N-nitrosamines with proteins in fish. These compounds may be carcinogenic. Young children are more susceptive to nitrites. When children are below six months old, they cannot drink nitrate-rich water, because nitrites cause the oxygen level in the blood to fall (Blue Baby Syndrome). It is advised to feed baby’s with water that has a nitrate content of below 25 μg/L.
  • Chloramine can cause leaching of lead from lead pipes, lead soldering and from so-called “lead-free” brass plumbing parts. Lead leached by chloramine can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause neurological damage, health problems and even death in young children.
  • Chloramine is toxic to fish, amphibians, and water-based reptiles and marine invertebrates. Chloramine enters directly into the bloodstream of fish, and amphibians through gills and skin, respectively.
  • 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 six 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.
  • Chloramine can aggravate other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
  • Chloramine can aggravate digestive disorders.
  • 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.

chloramine-water-filtersBut Wait, there’s more!

Although water utilities are required to provide high-quality drinking water that complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the water quality issues associated with monochloramine disinfection continues.

Here’s a quote from the World Health Organization’s “Managing Water in the Home” document:

“Disinfection of water with chloramines or ammonia-chlorine is widely practiced in community water supplies in order to provide a long-lasting disinfectant residual and to reduce tastes and odors associated with the use of free chlorine in some drinking water supplies.
Chloramination also reduces the formation of free chlorine by-products that are considered toxic, such as trihalomethanes. However, compared to free chlorine, ozone and chlorine dioxide, chloramines are relatively weak oxidants and germicides. Based on the product of disinfectant concentration, C, and contact time, T, (CxT) it takes about 10 to 100 times more chloramine than free chlorine to inactivate an equivalent amount of most waterborne microbes. Chloramination is also more difficult to apply to water than free chlorine because it requires the combined addition of controlled amounts of both free chlorine and ammonia.”

This statement reflects just some of the issues causing various municipalities reviewing the efficacy of monochloramines.

..and More!

chloramine2Science Daily” on November 24, 2015 , states “cooking with chloraminated water could put potentially harmful toxins in your food, according to a new study published in Water Research. The study reveals several molecules that are almost completely new to researchers, created by cooking with chloraminated tap water and iodized table salt. (Journal Reference) 1. Yang Pan, Xiangru Zhang, Yu Li. Identification, toxicity and control of iodinated disinfection byproducts in cooking with simulated chlor(am)inated tap water and iodized table salt. Water Research, 2016; 88: 60 DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.002

There’s also evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of chloramine disinfection, because of issues with deadly pathogens and algal blooms surfacing in some municipalities. Some have even reverted back to straight chlorine, and during this process, have inconvenienced consumers with the so-called “burnout” switch.

In the US national news headlines in January, Flint residents have struggled to maintain access to drinking water following financial troubles that have made this utility increasingly expensive. In 2014, in an attempt to save money, the city switched its water source to the nearby Flint River — a switch that has since been linked to heightened levels of lead in residents’ bloodstreams, thanks to outdated pipes and a corrosive agent present in the water supply. Flint’s mayor says the city is now facing a “man-made disaster.”

The latestFlint news is the potential side affects from chloramine disinfection are hitting hard to a community in crisis. “Flint residents have been wary about their tap water for quite some time. They first started raising concerns about their drinking water — which they complained appeared cloudy and had a foul odor — just one month after their water source first switched to the Flint River. But no matter what government officials do now, some of the consequences of the water crisis may be irreversible. According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), lead affects children’s brain development in significant ways, “resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening or attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment.”

“This is a crisis,” Governor Rick Snyder acknowledged this week. “And that is something I apologize for in terms of the state’s role in all of this.”

Well-known environmental activist and spokesperson, Erin Brockovich, stated on her Facebook post on January 11, 2016, “the single most dangerous Flint River water treatment process that caused the corrosion leading to lead leaching was the use of CHLORAMINE as a disinfectant. I have personally brought this problem to the Administration’s attention repeatedly. In February 2015 my associate brought it to the attention of the City of Flint and the State of Michigan… it was ignored.”

“Many Drinking Water systems switched from free chlorine to chloramine… haphazardly, in order to comply with the Stage II Disinfection Byproducts Rule. Drinking Water Disinfection has always presented water utilities with challenges… and no two water qualities are the same. Implementation of the Rule has been an absolute catastrophe. USEPA has turned a blind eye to it’s blanket implementation….”

Sourcing Solutions to Address Chloramine Toxins

In a detailed report by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) on February 27, 2013, WATER TREATMENT CONTAMINANTS: Forgotten Toxics in American Water, goes into detail about the entire chloramine controversy and how the EPA has failed the American people.

Since the inception of chloramine disinfection, we in the industry have known about the difficulties of removing it from tap water. Some consumers still contend drinking and bathing in untreated tap water is completely safe. For most, though, they are aware of the potential harm.  Over the last few years, the paradigm has shifted, and, through the Internet and social media today, people are so much more informed, and are starting to stand up to the ever-growing health issues stemming from contaminated tap water.

UltraStream2Here at Alkaway we offer special catalytic-based carbon water filtration as an integrated part of our UltraStream benchtop or undersink system. Catalytic carbon, because of its surface area, remains in contact with the chlorine-ammonia bond, separating out the chlorine molecule from the ammonia molecule, breaking the bond and effectively removing the chemicals. 

The chloramine controversy will definitely escalate in the next few years, and raise awareness to the lack of research that was done on its safety. It is, therefore, up to consumers to take necessary precautions. We can tell you, but you need to hear.
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