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Chloramine’s Usage and Safety

What is chloramine?

Chloramine (also called monochloramine) is a disinfectant used to treat drinking water. This disinfectant is formed by mixing chlorine with ammonia. Chloramine is used by Rand Water and some other municipalities alongside chlorine as a “secondary” disinfectant designed to remain in your water longer as it travels through the water system.

So what are the documented side effects of chloramine and it's by-products?

  • A recently discovered disinfection byproduct (DBP) found in U.S. drinking water treated with chloramines is the most toxic ever found, says a scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who tested samples on mammalian cells. read more...

  • The analysis indicates that the change to chloramine disinfection may lead to an increase in blood lead levels. read more...

  • Laboratory research showed that when mixed with chloramine, some household cleaning products -- including shampoo, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent -- formed N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is is toxic to the liver and other more...

Chloramine is Difficult to Remove From Your Water, But it Can be Done

Catalytic Activated carbon is a cost-effective treatment option for disinfection by-products removal

Chloramines may raise your water’s level of toxic unregulated disinfection by-products

Although alternative chloramine may minimize the formation of regulated DBPs, they generally form other DBPs that are not currently regulated and may also have negative health effects. This section will cover Nitrogenous, Iodinated Halogenated, and Nonhalogenated DBPs.  ​

It’s known that trihalomethanes (THMs), one of the most common DBPs, are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. They’ve also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans, such as spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, and congenital malformations, even at lower levels. These types of DBPs can also:

  • Weaken your immune system

  • Disrupt your central nervous system

  • Damage your cardiovascular system

  • Disrupt your renal system

  • Cause respiratory problems

Higher lead levels in water linked to chloramines

Chloramine can change the chemical properties of the water, which can impact corrosion of lead and copper. Nitrification in the distribution system can also occur when using chloramine. Nitrification can have a detrimental effect on water quality (such as loss of disinfectant residual). Nitrification results from the bacterial oxidation of ammonia (conversion of ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate)

There are two ways in which the use of chloramine can indirectly affect corrosion of lead and copper. First, when chloramine is used in water treatment as a residual disinfectant, it can change the chemical properties of the water, which subsequently can impact lead and copper corrosion. Certain conditions related to pH, alkalinity, and dissolved inorganic carbonate levels in the water can cause lead to dissolve from pipe material. Second, chloramination, if not properly optimized, can result in nitrification (conversion of ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate) in the presence of bacteria. Nitrification can lower the pH of the water, which can increase corrosion of lead and copper.

Other potential concerns include:

  • Because of chloramine’s corrosive nature, it has been linked to pinhole pitting in copper water pipes, which can lead to small water leaks and mold growth in your home

  • Chloramine also corrodes rubber toilet flappers and gaskets, rubber hoses, and rubber fittings in dishwashers and water heaters, leading to costly home repairs

  • Chloramine de-elasticizes PVC pipes, making them brittle and accelerating the leaching of possible carcinogens from the plastic into drinking water

Chloramine is difficult to remove from your water, but it can be done

Activated carbon have been used for chloramine removal long before catalytic carbon became available; Standard activated carbon requires a very long contact time, which means a large volume of carbon is needed. For thorough removal, up to four times the contact time of catalytic carbon may be required.

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