Like chlorine, chloramines are biocides designed to kill pathogenic organisms. At normal pH values, the predominant form of chloramine that is created is called monochloramine. Like Cl2 chloramines are oxidants and kill bacteria by penetrating their cell walls and disrupting their metabolism. Chloramines are, however, much slower to “react”. Unlike chlorine they do not evaporate from water. Neither are they removed by typical water treatment techniques. As with chlorine, municipalities aim for I to 2 mg/l (ppm) chloramine residual in the potable water supply.
Several disinfectants ranked by their “biocidal efficiency” and “stability” are noted below. (Biocidal efficiency is considered as the effectiveness of the disinfectant against a number of viruses and bacteria in the pH range of 6 to 9. Stability reflects a lack of reactivity with constituents other than microorganisms and is a measure of persistence in the treated system)
BIOCIDAL EFFICIENCY (BEST TO WORST)
ozone > chlorine dioxide > free chlorine > chloramines
STABILITY (BEST TO WORST)
chloramines > chlorine dioxide > free chlorine > ozone
By far the biggest health concern is that no long term, and very few short-term studies have been performed that can clarify the effect of chloramines on human metabolism.
What we know for sure about chloramines demonstrates that they are both reactive and persistent — not only in water, but also in human tissue. One study demonstrated that after 5 days, over 95% of a single dose of chloramine administered to laboratory rats was still concentrated in tissues including plasma, blood, skin, packed cells, kidney, nerves, testes, thymus gland, spleen, liver, muscle tissue, bone marrow, etc.
Notwithstanding this information, utility companies around the country routinely misinform their customers, telling them that chloramines are effectively neutralized by stomach acids before they can reach the blood.
It is also known that chloramines cause DNA damage and are potential carcinogens. They are extremely dangerous to all forms of fresh and salt-water fish because they are absorbed directly from the gills and transported directly into the blood causing death in a short period of time.
In one study, doses at the levels used by municipalities to treat water resulted in a significant reduction of water consumption by rats vs. controls, along with significant decreases in glood glutathione levels in rats. Other studies demonstrated changes in the organ weights of rat spleens, livers, and kidneys. Other studies show that chloramine ingestion may be toxic to the organs that comprise the immune system.
The EPA admits that in their review of studies available, not much has been done to research the effect of oxidant stress on blood or tissues, nor is the long term effect of chloromine ingestion on plasma cholesterol metabolism.
Clinical reports of the effects of chloramines on humans show that some people suffer allergic contact dermatitis when exposed. Chloramines are also irritants to mucous membranes including those that line the nose, throat, and gastrointestinal system.
Remarkably, based on very few poorly designed studies, and virtually no long term studies, public utility companies routinely declare that the EPA has determined that the addition of chloramine to drinking water is absolutely safe!
While the effect on public health by not disinfecting drinking water supplies would be far worse than the alternative, advising the public that either chlorination or chloramination are completely non-toxic methods is ill-advised. We now know that chlorination has contributed greatly to heart disease, cancer, and other serious health issues in our human population. There is no reason to believe that chloramination will prove to be less troublesome. In fact, just the opposite is likely.
Consumers interested in home appliances capable of solving this problem will be disappointed to learn that most popular treatment technologies are completely unable to handle chloramines without modification. These include most cartridge-based systems using ceramic or carbon media, reverse-osmosis systems, and distillers.
The only media that is proven effective at removing chloramine is a specially designed carbon known as Catalytic Activated Carbon. Whole house systems require substantial amounts of this media. A flow of 2 gallons per minute requires a cubic foot of media so the average home will require 3 to 4 cubic feet in a backwashing filter to reduce the average amount of chloramine from 2 ppm to less than 0.1 ppm. In a drinking water appliance like most countertop or undercounter units, an entire 10" cartridge filled with the media is required on flow rates of 1/4 gpm.
For systems designed to accept standard size pre and post-filters, a LIVINGWATERS® Catalytic Activated Carbon (LW10CAC) replacement filter cartridge can replace typical carbon filters in RO and distillation systems.
Those interested in purchasing new systems are well-advised to consider purchasing either a LIVINGWATERS® premium manifold RO system with chloramine removal technology, or a 6-stage LIVINGWATERS® cartridge-based water filtration system that is capable of removing not only chloramine, but also chlorine, their disinfection by-products, fluoride, heavy metals, organic compounds that cause tastes and odors, as well as render product water completely sterile, all without the need for power or high water pressure.