As more and more people become concerned about their drinking water’s safety, chloramine as a drinking water disinfection agent in public water systems has been scrutinized. Chloramine is a compound that is formed when chlorine is combined with ammonia. It is often used as an alternative to chlorine for disinfecting drinking water, but some people are skeptical about its safety and effectiveness.
In this article, we will discuss chloramine in water, including what it is, its purpose, and its potential side effects. We will also explore the different ways to test for chloramine in your drinking water and how to remove it if necessary.
- Chloramines are not as effective as chlorine at disinfection, although chloramines will last longer in municipal water systems.
- Disinfection byproducts form in drinking water following chloramine treatment which can increase the risk of cancer and damage DNA when consumed.
- The most accurate method to know if you have chloramine in your tap water is to use a certified laboratory test.
- Removing chloramines from your water supply is best done with a catalytic carbon filter, as traditional activated carbon is unable to remove them effectively.
What Are Chloramines In Water?
Chloramines are a group of chemicals that are formed by combining chlorine and ammonia. They are used as a disinfectant in public water systems to kill bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that can cause illness. However, chloramines have a lower oxidation potential than free chlorine so they are not as effective at disinfecting water.
The benefit is that chloramines are less reactive than chlorine and last longer in the water, which means they can be effective for extended periods. Since ammonia creates chloramines instead of free chlorine, it is best added at the end of water treatment. This helps ensure clean drinking water throughout the entire system.
While chloramines are generally considered safe for drinking water, it’s essential to understand the different types and levels present. The pH level of the water will determine the type of chloramines that are formed:
- Monochloramine is the most common form and occurs with a pH between 4.5 – 8.5, but is more dominant closer to a pH of 8.5 or above.
- Dichloramine is present in pH levels between 4.5 – 8.5 but is more dominant at pH levels closer to 4.5.
- Trichloramines are more commonly associated with swimming pools and pH levels below 4.5, so if you notice a strong chlorine smell in your tap water, it may be worth investigating.
What Is Chloramine Disinfection?
Chloramination or chloramine disinfection is a method of disinfecting drinking water by adding chloramine. Several types of disinfection byproducts are produced during the reactions from the disinfection process.
Inorganic byproducts created from reactions between chlorine and inorganic compounds can be removed with proper water filtration and are harmless. However, there are unintended disinfection byproducts that are produced when organic matter reacts with chlorine.
The most concerning organic compounds currently are haloacetic acids (HAAs) and trihalomethanes (THMs). These compounds are formed when chlorine and organic material (like amino acids) react to create halogenated organics.
Drinking Water Disinfection With Chloramine In Public Water Systems
Since the 1930s, water treatment plants have been utilizing chloramines to provide clean and safe drinking water to more than one in five Americans. Our water supply comes from lakes, wells, and aquifers, which frequently contain fungi, bacteria, and microbes. Public water systems add chloramine to kill these harmful microorganisms throughout their distribution.
Water utilities that use chloramines to disinfect drinking water must comply with the strict health standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. These standards are based on the average concentration of chloramines detected in a water system over time.
Not only is water containing chloramines regulated by the EPA, but it’s also considered safe for all household uses, including drinking, cooking, and bathing. In addition, the EPA monitors the presence of certain chemicals that result from the interaction between chloramines and natural organic matter in water called disinfection byproducts.
How Does Chloramine Enter The Drinking Water Supply?
Chloramine enters the drinking water supply when water treatment plants add it at different stages of the process. Many water providers are switching from chlorine to chloramine disinfection because it is more stable and effective in controlling the growth of harmful microorganisms. Additionally, chloramine is less likely to form harmful disinfection byproducts than chlorine.
Ammonia is not generally added at the beginning of the water treatment process because it creates chloramines instead of free chlorine. As a result, it is frequently added after filtration at the end so the chloramines create a secondary disinfectant.
Chloramine vs. Chlorine To Treat Drinking Water
Chlorine is a more reactive disinfectant that quickly kills bacteria and other microorganisms but is less stable in water. Chlorine can also react with organic matter in the water to form harmful byproducts like trihalomethanes (THMs).
Chloramine is less reactive and lasts longer in the water, so it can be effective for extended periods. Chloramine is also less likely to form THMs and HAAs in high concentrations.
Many public water systems use chlorine as a primary disinfectant and use chloramines as their secondary disinfectant to meet disinfection byproduct requirements.
However, given the concern about carcinogenic disinfection byproducts like trihalomethanes, several communities are becoming hesitant to expose themselves to this process.
What Are Safe Levels Of Chloramine In Drinking Water?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL) for chloramine at 4 mg/L, which is the concentration of a drinking water disinfectant that there is no known health risk.
Likewise, the Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for safe levels of chlorine in drinking water. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for chlorine is 4 mg/L.
The World Health Organization conducted a study and found that individuals are able to taste chloramine at concentrations below 5 mg/L. Therefore, if you are able to taste chlorine or chloramine in your drinking water, you likely need to have your water treated.
Side Effects Of Chloramine In Water
Although chloramine is generally considered safe drinking water, there are human health effects to be aware of if exposed to high chloramine levels:
Skin irritation: Chloramine exposure can cause dry, itchy, or red skin, especially for those with sensitive skin Prolonged exposure to chloramine in water can lead to chronic skin irritation and even more severe conditions such as eczema.
Eye irritation: Chloramine exposure to water can cause redness, itching, and watering of the eyes. This can be particularly troublesome for those who wear contact lenses.
Respiratory problems: Chloramine exposure can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Inhalation of chloramine vapor can irritate the lungs and exacerbate respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Anemia and other blood disorders: Chloramine exposure can damage the body’s red blood cells. This can lead to anemia, a condition where the body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, causing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
While it’s true that the levels of chloramine in drinking water are generally considered safe, it’s still important to be aware of the potential risks associated with prolonged exposure to high levels of this chemical. In most cases, the levels of chloramine in drinking water are low enough that they won’t cause any significant health effects.
However, if you experience any of the side effects discussed above, it’s crucial to take them seriously and seek medical advice right away. Remember, your health should always be your top priority, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about the safety of your drinking water.
What Are the Pros and Cons Of Using Chloramine In Drinking Water
Here are some pros and cons of using chloramine in drinking water:
Pros Of Chloramine Usage:
- Chloramine is a long-lasting disinfectant that remains active in the water distribution system, providing continued protection against harmful bacterial regrowth, viruses, and infectious diseases.
- Chloramine produces fewer disinfection byproducts (DBPs) compared to chlorine, which can have potential health risks.
- Chloramine is more stable than chlorine, which can quickly dissipate over time or due to temperature changes.
Cons Of Chloramine Usage:
- Chloramine can cause an unpleasant taste and odor in drinking water, especially if the water is not used for an extended period.
- Chloramine can corrode certain types of water pipes and plumbing fixtures, especially those made of lead or copper. Chloramine is a primary contributor to the corrosion and leaking of copper pipes.
- Elevated levels of chloramines in tap water are known to be detrimental to home dialysis users and dialysis centers.
- Chloramine can be harmful to fish, amphibians, and reptiles, which absorb water directly into their bloodstream.
How To Test For Chloramine In Water
If you are concerned about the presence of chloramine in your drinking water, there are several ways to test for it.
Certified Laboratory Test
Using a certified laboratory to test for chloramine in tap water is the most accurate detection method. They will provide you with a testing kit that you can use to collect a water sample from your home. Once you have collected the sample, you can send it back to the laboratory for analysis.
I recommend using the Frehnss Labs water test kit which screens for chlorine and disinfection byproducts (like chloramine). After the lab receives your water sample, you will get a detailed report with the exact chloramine levels in your drinking water, any health or plumbing concerns, and the best treatment options based on your testing data.
At-Home Test Strip Kits
At-home test strip kits are a convenient way to test for chloramine in water. They are affordable and user-friendly. Simply dipping the strip into a sample of your drinking water for a few seconds is all that is required. The strip will change color to signify the presence of chloramine in your water.
However, the accuracy of these kits may differ, and they may not provide an exact measurement of the levels of chloramine in your water. Many of these tests only provide testing for chlorine and do not detect the presence of disinfection byproducts.
If you suspect that there may be high levels of chloramine in your drinking water, it is recommended that you consult a professional laboratory test to ensure accurate results.
Check EPA Water Quality Report
If you’re looking for an easier way to check the chloramine levels in your water, you can check your water provider’s annual water quality report. This report is mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and provides information about the level of chloramine and other contaminants in your drinking water. Your water provider’s website should have this information available.
Alternatively, you can get a copy of the report by reaching out to your water provider. It’s important to note that this report might not provide an exact measurement of chloramine levels, but it’s a good starting point to determine if there’s a potential issue. For that reason, I always recommend testing your home’s water so you can know for sure.
How To Get Rid Of Chloramine In Water
If you test your water and discover elevated levels of chloramines, there are options to reduce your exposure. Here are the best water treatment systems to remove chloramines from your drinking water.
Catalytic Carbon Filtration
To reduce chloramine levels in drinking water, activated carbon is one of the most promising processes. Adsorption by activated carbon can remove chloramines, but it requires special activated carbons as they are difficult to remove from water. However, normal activated carbon is not efficient in decreasing an excessive amount of chloramine in drinking water.
Hence, this calls for the use of catalytic carbon filtration. This is a water filtration process that uses a particular type of activated carbon that is specifically designed to remove chloramine from water. Its surface changes through a chemical process that alters its electronic structure to make carbon more effective at speeding up chemical reactions. As a result, the modified carbon exhibits improved catalytic performance.
Reverse osmosis is a water purification process that uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove contaminants from water. In the case of chloramine, the membrane has tiny pores to trap the molecule, preventing it from passing through.
When water is forced through the membrane under pressure, the chloramine and other contaminants are left behind, while the purified water is collected on the other side of the membrane.
Reverse osmosis is an effective method for removing a wide range of contaminants from water, including chloramine. However, it is ideal if the RO system contains a carbon filter as part of the filtration process to assist in removing chloramines.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if there is chloramine in my water?
You can find out if your water contains chloramine by checking your water provider’s annual water quality report or by testing the water yourself using at-home test strip kits or a certified laboratory test.
What is the best shower filter for chloramine in water?
If you want to remove chloramine from your shower water, a shower filter that uses catalytic carbon filtration is the most effective. These filters are specifically designed to remove chloramine.
Are chloramines safe to drink?
Chloramines are generally safe for drinking water. However, some people may be more sensitive to it and experience adverse effects. For example, people with respiratory problems, such as asthma, may experience symptoms like wheezing or coughing, while those with sensitive skin may experience irritation or rash.
Does boiling water remove chloramine?
No, boiling water will not remove chloramine from your water. In fact, boiling water can increase the chloramine concentration as the water evaporates and the chloramine becomes more concentrated.
Do Brita filters remove chloramine?
Brita filters are not effective for removing chloramine from your water. While they may reduce the taste and odor of chlorine, they are not designed to remove chloramine.
Will chloramine increase the amount of lead or copper in my drinking water?
Chloramine can cause lead and copper to leach from pipes and plumbing fixtures, especially in older homes. While water providers may adjust the pH of the water to prevent this from happening, it is important to test your water regularly for lead and copper. This is to ensure that they are not present at harmful levels.
Can chloramine harm my pets or plants?
Yes, chloramine is hazardous to aquatic animals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. But it is safe for humans and other domestic animals. Animals sensitive to chloramine directly absorb water into their bloodstream. This makes it dangerous to keep them in water containing these disinfectants. However, there are products available at pet supply stores that can help eliminate chloramine. Visit your local pet store to learn more about ways to remove disinfectants from water.