Symptoms:

Bad taste, odor, skin irritation and eye irritation.

Causes:

Chloramine, or NH2Cl, is commonly used in low concentrations as a secondary disinfectant in municipal water distribution systems as an alternative to free chlorine chlorination. Chloramines are disinfectants used to treat drinking water. Chloramines are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. The typical purpose of chloramines is to provide longer-lasting water treatment as the water moves through pipes to consumers.

Health Concerns:

Chloramine can be deadly to fish in aquariums and ponds and to patients on dialysis machines. For regular home use, water with chloramine presents aesthetic issues of bad taste, odor and skin irritation. There is also evidence that exposure to chloramine can contribute to respiratory problems, including asthma. Other side effects are suspected, but more study is needed.

Action Level:

Any level is unacceptable.

More Information:

Chloramine or NH2Cl is commonly used in low concentrations as a secondary disinfectant in municipal water distribution systems as an alternative to free chlorine chlorination. This application is increasing, and chlorine (sometimes referred to as free chlorine),is being displaced by chloramine, which is much more stable and does not dissipate from the water before it reaches consumers.

NH2Cl also has a very much lower tendency than free chlorine to convert organic materials into chlorocarbons such as chloroform and carbon tetrachloride.

Such compounds have been identified as carcinogens and in 1979 the United States Environmental Protection Agency began regulating their levels in U.S. drinking water. Furthermore, water treated with chloramine lacks the distinct chlorine odor of the gaseous treatment and so has improved taste. In swimming pools, chloramines are formed by the reaction of free chlorine with organic substances.

Chloramines, compared to free chlorine, are both less effective as a sanitizer and more irritating to the eyes of swimmers. When swimmers complain of eye irritation from "too much chlorine" in a pool, the problem is typically a high level of chloramines. Pool test kits designed for use by homeowners are sensitive to both free chlorine and chloramines, which can be misleading.

Chloramines are disinfectants used to treat drinking water. Chloramines are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. The typical purpose of chloramines is to provide longer-lasting water treatment as the water moves through pipes to consumers. This type of disinfection is known as secondary disinfection. Chloramines have been used by water utilities for almost 90 years, and their use is closely regulated. More than one in five Americans uses drinking water treated with chloramines. Water that contains chloramines and meets EPA regulatory standards is safe to use for drinking, cooking, bathing and other household uses, according to some.

Many utilities use chlorine as their secondary disinfectant; however, in recent years, some of them changed their secondary disinfectant to chloramines to meet disinfection byproduct regulations.

EPA continues to research drinking water disinfectants and expects to periodically evaluate and possibly update the questions and answers about chloramines when new information becomes available.

Chloramine-treated water has a greenish cast, the source of the color is uncertain. Pure water by contrast normally is bluish. This greenish color may be observed by filling a white polyethylene bucket with chlorinated tap water and comparing it to chloramine-free water such as distilled water or a sample from a swimming pool.

Adding chloramine to the water supply can increase exposure to lead in drinking water, especially in areas with older housing; this exposure can result in increased lead levels in the bloodstream and can pose a significant health risk

There is also evidence that exposure to chloramine can contribute to respiratory problems, including asthma, among swimmers. Respiratory problems related to chloramine exposure are common and prevalent among competitive swimmers.

Chloramine use, together with chlorine dioxide, ozone, and ultraviolet, has been described as a public health concern and an example of the outcome of poorly implemented environmental regulation. These methods of disinfection decrease the formation of regulated byproducts, which has led to their widespread use. However, they can increase the formation of a number of unregulated byproducts, some of which pose greater health risks than the regulated chemicals.

Many animals are sensitive to chloramine and it must be removed from water given to many animals in zoos. Aquarium owners remove the chloramine from their tap water because it is toxic to fish. Aging the water for a few days removes chlorine but not the more stable chloramine, which can be neutralized using products available at pet stores.

Chloramine must also be removed from the water prior to use in kidney dialysis machines, as it would come in contact with the bloodstream across a permeable membrane.

Chloramine cannot be removed from water by boiling, distilling or reverse osmosis, which at least helps to narrow your options! Beware of any company trying to sell you one of these as they simply don't work.