What is the Difference Between Chloramines and Chlorine?


The majority of people in the U.S receive their water from a municipal public water supply. As such, it’s highly likely that most people have heard of chlorine, and understand that it’s used to disinfect water in our water supplies and public swimming pools. This has been common practice since its introduction in 1908 to kill bacteria in raw water and halt the spread of waterborne diseases. A lesser-known chemical is chloramine.  The relationship between these two chemicals and their effects on water treatment is a complicated one. What is the Difference Between Chloramines and Chlorine?

The Pros and Cons of Chlorinating Water: 

Chlorination has been the go to method for disinfecting water for over 100 years, and it has been effective at eliminating diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. We have a lot to be thankful for, but recent studies have revealed some disturbing downsides to using chlorinated water. You may have noticed that public water can have a bleachy odor, this can be off-putting for many people, but this only a minor consideration. Recent research has shown that chlorine can react with naturally organic matter (NOM) to form disinfection byproducts, such as haloacetic acids (HAAs) and trihalomethanes (THMs). 

The Dangers of Disinfection Byproducts: 

Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are very hazardous to human health. They have been found to increase the risk of health problems, such as an augmented cancer risk, kidney damage, liver damage and impaired function in the central nervous system. The DBP trihalomethane alone was found to responsible for almost 17% of all bladder cancers diagnosed annually in the U.S..  This has resulted in an effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and reduce the concentration levels of chlorine in our public water supply. 

The Adoption of Chloramine: 

Due to the emerging concerns regarding the use of chlorine, water utility companies have sought other alternatives. Since 2010 we have seen a steady switch taking place. This change has involved the replacement of chlorine with chloramine as a disinfectant. At the moment, it is estimated that 23% of the U.S population now receives water that is treated with chloramines and this number is rising every year. Chloramine was chosen because it is more stable and lasts longer during the water distribution process making it more effective. 

Problem Solved? 

Chloramine is regarded as a safer alternative to chlorination if used in very small quantities. This solution does come with its own unique set of problems which have caused concern amongst clean water advocates. Health professionals have stated that they have concerns regarding the drinking of chloramine treated water. People with skin problems and compromised immune systems seem to be particularly at risk. There are other concerns, such as an increase in lead release, increased chemical sensitivity and a decrease in the effectiveness of kidney dialysis machines. It seems to be the case that chloramine usage may not be as safe as we have been led to believe. 

The Solution to Chlorine and Chloramine Removal  

The filtering technology to remove both chlorine and chloramines from your domestic water supply not only exists, but is cost-effective.  Talk to your local water treatment professional who should be able to direct you to either a point of use Reverse Osmosis filter you can install in your kitchen or a whole home water filtering system.  

About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.

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