Water utilities worldwide are rapidly transitioning to the use of chloramines to treat drinking water. Traditionally, chlorine was used as a disinfectant, but today the majority of water utilities are switching to chloramines as they not only offer a convenient water treatment solution, but are also considered to be safer.
So, are chloramines really a better option, or do they do us more harm than good? To understand this, you first need to understand what chloramines are.
What is Chloramine?
Chloramine is a chemical disinfectant prepared by the combination of ammonia and chlorine. The chemical process involved in the preparation of chloramines produces several inorganic chloramines, such as organochlorines, monochloramine, and dichloramine. When we speak about chloramines, we’re generally referring to the monochloramines, which constitute one-part ammonia and five parts chlorine solution. The element is typically used as a secondary disinfectant to halt the growth of microorganisms, bacteria, and other viruses.
While chloramines are undeniably cheaper, more stable, and last comparatively longer, there’s no sufficient evidence indicating they’re a safe alternative to chlorine. Here’s why they may be harmful instead:
May Cause Irritation
One of the primary dangers of chloramines in drinking water is that they can potentially harm your skin and may cause irritation in the eyes and skin.
People who have skin problems like eczema or acne should be extra careful because chloramines may exacerbate their skin condition—they can cause rashes, breakouts, flakiness, and dryness.
When chloramine disinfects your drinking water, it also produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine dioxide or ozone. These toxic compounds may even cause sinus issues.
May Cause Deterioration of Municipal Infrastructure
Several studies indicate that chloramines are highly corrosive and hence, can be a potential cause of the degradation of valves and pipe fittings. If your water system uses lead pipes, chloramines may cause it to combine with the drinking water and cause potential health problems.
In the early 2000s, Washington, DC switched to a chloramine-based water treatment system, which eventually led to a five-year lead contamination crisis; exposing over 42,000 children in the region to considerably high lead levels. Lead exposure in children can lead to long-term health problems, like lower attention span, antisocial behavior, lower IQ, and hearing loss. Chloramines also corrode solders, metal pipes, and fixtures.