Chloramines in Drinking Water: Should My Family Be Worried?

Most people know about chlorine in their drinking water. They associate it with that “pool smell” and an unpleasant taste. Other contaminants may not be so obvious, however. For instance, chloramines, a chlorine relative used to further disinfect public water systems, are potentially hazardous but not well-known. The presence of chloramines in drinking water goes…

Most people know about chlorine in their drinking water. They associate it with that “pool smell” and an unpleasant taste. Other contaminants may not be so obvious, however. For instance, chloramines, a chlorine relative used to further disinfect public water systems, are potentially hazardous but not well-known. The presence of chloramines in drinking water goes ignored by people all over the US, but it could have harmed the environment and their health. Here's what you need to know.

What Are Chloramines?
Chloramines are used as a secondary disinfectant in city water systems. They break down more slowly and have the ability to keep killing bacteria, viruses and other dangerous organisms long after chlorine has stopped working. Most chloramines are made by combining ammonia and chlorine. They are weak against microorganisms, but they are thought to reduce the risk of infections spread in drinking water. US water systems have contained chloramines for almost 100 years, but their concentrations are increasing.

How Are Chloramines Dangerous?
Because chloramines persist in the water for longer than other disinfectants, they can have unexpected side effects. For instance, when this type of substance comes into contact with organic matter, it releases what are called disinfection byproducts or DBPs. These by products can be toxic. Some are even considered carcinogens in lab animals and may damage organisms or weak immune systems in people who are exposed to them.

Chloramines also increase the amount of lead that gets into the water if they come into contact with lead pipes. While almost all buildings no longer have this kind of plumbing, some older buildings still retain lead piping. Ordinary water does not pick up very much lead from them, however. Acidic water or drinking water treated with chloramines tend to leach more lead out of these antiquated pipes, increasing the danger to people who live in older buildings.

What Can I Do to Remove Chloramines in Drinking Water?
If you're concerned about the presence of chloramines and other chlorine derivatives in your water, you have the ability to do something about them. Look for a high quality countertop water filter capable of removing these substances. Most will also take out all the undesirable contaminants that chloramines can add into your water, such as lead. That means that you'll be able to benefit from chloramines' disinfectant properties without risking your health.

Everyone desires Clean drinking water, but many people do not realize how contaminated their supply might be. Check out your local water report or have your tap water tested. If you see evidence of contaminants, it might be time to get a water filter for purer, healthy drinking water.