Every few years, something new finds its way into our drinking water, causing confusion at best and justifiable panic at worst.
Fortunately, most of what we hear about is nowhere near the levels that we saw recently in West Virginia (ie a severe MCHM contamination incident from earlier this year.) Even the recent finding of E. Coli in New York City, while horrifying and inexcusable, represents an issue that can be treated fairly easily once discovered.
In speaking to our customers, an impurity that is coming up more frequently is chloramine. While certainly not a new disinfectant, the use of chloramine as a disinfectant of choice over chlorine is becoming more common in larger cities, including Los Angeles. This is due in large part to chloramine’s stability, making it more effective at disinfection when water must travel longer distances.
Without a doubt, chloramine is an interesting disinfectant. Formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water, is both a more stable and weaker disinfectant than chlorine. While weaker, it is up to ten times harder to reduce from water, especially with a basic carbon water filter. Chloramine will also not effectively boil out of water or dissipate, as can be counted on with chlorine.
As is common, because the addition of chloramine in water is not always fully understood or fully communicated, it’s a cause for concern that we see driving some of our purchases. And while we are happy to offer you a chloramine filter that will help to meet your needs, our goal is not to sell you something that you simply do not need – especially as a chloramine filter will typically cost you more out of pocket.
So before investing in a more expensive water filter than you are accustomed to, review the ten questions below to see if upgrading to reduce chloramine is something you truly need. You may also call our customer service team at 1-800-277-3458 if you have any additional questions:
1. Why are water companies putting chloramine in water?
In referencing the story above, that shares more about the recent switch to chloramine in Los Angeles, most municipalities and water companies see chloramine as a safer alternative to chlorine as it remains more effective over long distances and ensures less risk of toxic Disinfection By-Products (DBPs.) As such, using chloramine as a water disinfectant has been deemed a safer alternative whether your water will be consumed by humans or animals, with some exceptions discussed below.
Illinois American Water shares that despite this being a new disinfectant in many areas, cities throughout the US and Canada have used chloramine for decades. Denver, Colorado, in fact, has used it since 1917. Everpure, a brand we are proud to carry at our online store here, shares that 25% of the largest public water supplies in the US are using this disinfectant.
2. Is MY water company putting chloramine in MY water?
The answer to this depends upon whether your municipality or water company reached out to you to share that they’d be making the switch to chloramine as a disinfectant. If not, it’s possible that they’ve used it for years. If this is the case, this information will be available either on your local water company’s website or by calling them directly.
3. Were you contacted by your water company regarding overuse of chloramine?
As with any other incident impacting your water, your municipality or water company is required to inform you if you are at a health risk from your drinking water, whether due to a contaminant that can be boiled out or an impurity that risks impacting taste or odor. If your municipality has not issued any such alert, you are likely not at a high risk of chloramine contamination in your home, and would likely not need to invest in a chloramine filter.
4. If you have been contacted by your water company regarding overuse of chloramine, is this the first time or just the latest time?
On the other hand, if your water company has contacted you several times regarding the overuse of chloramine, it may be time to invest in a water filter or filtration system that puts your mind a bit more at ease. Whether this means you’ve been warned just one time or several times is a matter of personal opinion.
5. Have you noticed a much heavier chlorine taste and odor in your water?
As much as we always like to give local municipalities and water companies the benefit of the doubt, there have been some troubling instances where drinking water alerts were sent out late (the recent E. Coli contamination incident in Portland comes to immediate mind.)
If your drinking water smells and tastes like a swimming pool, it is definitely worth placing a quick call to your water company if you haven’t received any alert.
6. What health effects does overuse of chloramine cause?
Fundamentally, the levels at which chloramine is used to treat municipal water is safe, as is any other type of similar disinfectant. It’s certainly safer than virtually anything you’ll find in untreated water, including any number of harmful bacteria.
Illinois American Water shares:
“Everyone can drink water that’s chloraminated because the digestive process neutralizes the chloramines before they reach the bloodstream. It’s only when water interacts directly with the bloodstream that chloramines must be removed.”
Note that it’s this direct contact with bloodstream that makes chloraminated water dangerous for fish or dialysis patients, rather than those just drinking chloraminated water. Even treating a cut with chloraminated water would not result in virtually any chloramine finding its way into your bloodstream.
In the event that you are exposed to higher than safe levels of chloramine, the EPA reports health effects including a stinging in the eyes or nose, stomach discomfort and dry, itchy skin. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned that it may be due to exposure, call a doctor first. Check-in with your water company, and consider a water test kit and chloramine filter next.
7. Have you tested your water?
Chloramine is fairly easy to detect in water. You can use a $7 Culligan water test kit, found on our site and pictured, to effectively determine whether or not there are higher than safe levels of this disinfectant in your drinking water. If needed, we can even ship this out for you overnight.
8. Is anyone living in your home a kidney dialysis patient?
As stated by Illinois American Water:
In the dialysis process, water comes in contact with the blood across a permeable membrane. Chloramines in that water would be toxic, just as chlorine is toxic, and must be removed from water used in kidney dialysis machines.
In other words, yes, those that live with kidney dialysis patients need to take special precaution when it comes to chloramine. However, these patients need to take the same precaution when it comes to chlorine, making a switch in the disinfectant used by a municipality more of a lateral shift as far as their habits are concerned.
All kidney dialysis patients should consult with their physician on the most appropriate water treatment or filter options, whether due to chloramine or any other water contamination or disinfection issue.
9. Do you have an aquarium?
Similar to dialysis patients, any disinfectant used in water will come into contact with a fish’s bloodstream, making filtration critical for those with more expensive aquarium set-ups.
If you have or are thinking about investing in an aquarium, we recommend researching the information that your local water company makes available to see what disinfectants are used, or asking your local aquarium shop if you should invest in a whole house or chloramine filter.
10. Are you a home brewer?
In researching the topic of chloramine, and specifically whether or not you need to employ a chloramine filter, you’ll find a lot of content from the aquarium and home brewing communities.
With the home brewing community, the issue comes down to whether or not chloramine causes taste issues, particularly as this disinfectant is difficult to reduce using standard methods such as trusting a carbon filter or boiling.
More Beer puts it most effectively in stating:
If your water district is changing over to chloramination, or if you’re moving to a chloraminated-water area, you may be wondering how you can get chloramines out of your brew water. First, however, you should ascertain whether chloramines really are a problem. Does your beer have off-flavors? If you can’t taste anything and are not a trained taster, have it tasted by someone who is. If you aren’t getting the medicinal or plastic-like taste of chlorophenols in your beer, don’t worry about removing chloramines.
If you’ve come this far and determined that a chloramine filter is needed in your home, your options would include:
Whether or not you need a chloramine filter will primarily come down to how sensitive you are to the smell and taste of disinfectant, rather than any health related issues. That said, this is small comfort if you are among those most sensitive to this type of water issue. It’s also small comfort to those of you suffering through legitimate issues with chloramine contamination.
After reading this, if you feel as though a chloramine filter is right for your home, please review the products above for the right fit. I also invite you to call our customer service team with any questions at 1-800-277-3458.
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