What Is Chloramine?

Chloramine is a disinfectant that consists of chlorine and ammonia. Technically, there are three common types of chloramine: monochloramine (NH2Cl), dichloramine (NHCl2), and trichloramine (NCl3). Because these forms fluctuate and shift from form to form while in the water supply, the three are collectively referred to as chloramines.

Chloramine was introduced in the 1930s as an alternative to chlorine for water treatment and disinfection. Chloramine became the secondary disinfectant of choice in the wake of the EPA’s Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule.

This rule stipulates that water utilities must reduce the levels of disinfection by-products (DBPs) to a certain level in order to be deemed compliant. You may have read about disinfection by-products on another Pelican Water page - these by-products, like trihalomethanes (THMs), are created when disinfectants like chlorine or chloramine react with naturally-occurring organic compounds in your water.

Over 20% of water utilities in the United States use chloramine in order to reduce the amount of disinfection by-products created when compared to chlorine. However, chloramines can cause their own unique problems separate from chlorine. For example, acclaimed lawyer Erin Brockovich notes that chloramines create more dangerous by-products when compared to other treatment agents like chlorine or ozone.

How Does Chloramine Get in Our Water

Chloramine is added to your water supply by the local water municipalities. It should be noted that not all water utilities introduce chloramines into their water supply. This decision is made by agencies on a case-by-case basis. In order to determine if your water contains chloramines you should contact your local water municipality directly, or check the yearly water quality report released by the utility.

Chloramine is used for the treatment of your water at the disinfection site or plant. However, chloramine is less likely than chlorine to dissipate; it stays in the water system for longer, meaning if it was added to your water supply that it will still exist in moderate levels when the water reaches the pipes in your home.

How Effective is Chloramine?

Chloramine is less likely to dissipate from a water supply than chlorine, but it has been proven to be less effective than chlorine as a disinfectant. The World Health Organization notes that chloramines are more than 2,000 times less effective than chlorine for the inactivation of rotaviruses and E. Coli.

In fact, in some communities chloramine has been shown to be less effective than chlorine in combating microorganisms that cause communicable diseases. A study published by Zierler, et al noted that the death rate for influenza and pneumonia was higher in Massachusetts communities that drink water treated with chloramine when compared to the same rates in communities where chlorine is the disinfectant of choice.

Does Chloramine Have a Distinct Odor and Taste?

Yes. As chloramines are all composed of chlorine they all exhibit that distinct chemical odor and taste that many people choose to filter from their water supply. If you notice that signature smell when showering or taste what you assume to be chlorine when drinking your tap water, you may actually be consuming chloramines or chloramine fumes.

Many homeowners who aren’t worried about the health effects of chloramines still choose to install filtration systems to combat the odor and taste.

Health Effects of Chloramine

Before you learn more about the potential harmful effects of chloramine we must examine the scientific properties of chloramines as a group. Many regulatory agencies state that monochloramine is the only form of chloramine utilized as a secondary disinfectant. However, this is not entirely true.

The three forms of chloramine can shift into one another based on environmental factors. While monochloramine may be introduced into the water supply initially, it may become dichloramine or trichloramine based on the temperature, pH, and the chlorine-to-ammonia ratio in the water.

Why is this concerning? Because dichloramine and trichloramine are known to cause respiratory issues, skin problems, and eye irritation. Here are just some of the health issues associated with chloramines:

Chloramine vapors can cause asthma attack

Damage to the mucus membranes of the nasopharynx

Damage to the eyes, nose, and throat for anyone with the prolonged exposure to high levels of chloramines

Inhalation of chloramine funes can cause burning in the eyes and throat, nausea, vomiting, and transient cough

Toxicity of Chloramine

Some forms of chloramine are more demonstrably toxic than others. Trichloramine is the most severely toxic form, followed by dichloramine and monochloramine. In addition to chloramines shifting from one form to another when influenced by environmental factors there is also a concern over the increased corrosive nature of chloramines when compared to chlorine.

Chloramine can cause rapid corrosion of the piping in and near your home, leading to higher levels of copper and lead in your water supply. This jeopardizes your water quality and can lead to negative health effects for your family. For more information visit our lead education page.

The corrosive properties of chloramines have wreaked havoc on major cities in the past. Washington D.C. switched from using chlorine to using chloramine as a secondary disinfectant in 2001. When the switch was made the water utility did not increase the amount of pipe corrosion inhibitor in the water supply. As a result, the older lead pipes in the city were corroded, increasing the lead concentration in the city water supply to dangerous levels.

City officials knew of this catastrophe, but withheld six different water test results from federal regulators in order to preserve the illusion that their water was safe to drink. During the following years 42,000 children were exposed to high levels of lead, which could have caused permanent neurological and developmental issues.

Perhaps the most alarming fact about chloramine toxicity is the known effects chloramine vapors have on the respiratory system. Chloramines can transform into vapors in swimming pools, but can also become vapor while you take a hot shower.

Chloramine vapors can cause prolonged lung irritation and can precipitate an asthma attack, according to NHS Scotland. While the toxicity of the various forms of chloramine are still debated by scientists, the negative effects become more pronounced when chloramines are ingested in vapor form.

How to Remove Chloramine From Water

In theory chloramines should treat your water and remove microorganisms that can cause communicable diseases. However, bacteria can still persist in your water supply even when treated with these common secondary disinfectants.

There are no health benefits to consuming chloramine. In fact, there are many negative health effects associated with chloramines. Once the treated water reaches your home you should filter the chloramines so you can enjoy crisp, refreshing water without these side-effects. Decide what method will best remove chloramines by considering the following:

Does Boiling Water Remove Chloramine

Conflicting results cast doubt on the effectiveness of boiling water and other common treatment methods for removing chloramine from your drinking water. The SFPUC claims that boiling water for approximately 20 minutes will reduce chloramines and ammonia to safe levels.

However, other sources point out that chloramines are more chemically complex than chlorine and are more difficult to filter out by methods like boiling.

Do Carbon Filters Remove Chloramines?

Carbon filters, very common in water purification and filtration products, are some of the most effective tools for reducing the contaminants in your water, along with the general taste and odor associated with chloramines and DBPs.

Carbon filter technology has come a long way since the time of the ancient Egyptians, who stored water in charcoal because they discovered the water was fresher and tasted better when stored in charcoal.

The most common type of carbon filter in products on the market today is an activated carbon filter. This type of filter uses granular activated carbon media to effectively reduce and filter many contaminants and unwanted components of your water.

Less common is a more advanced form of carbon filtration, called catalytic activated carbon filtration. Pelican Water uses these types of filters in most of our models because catalytic activated carbon has a higher capacity for chlorine reduction. In addition, catalytic activated carbon filters can more effectively reduce THMs and chloramines. In catalytic activated carbon filters the structure of the carbon is altered through different activation and manufacturing processes to optimize its filtration capabilities.

It is important to note that water filter systems that are NSF-certified to effectively reduce chlorine may not necessarily reduce chloramines at comparable levels. When choosing a water filtration system do not assume that chlorine reduction is the same as chloramine reduction. Read the specifications on any models you are considering to ensure that chloramines are effectively reduced with those models.

Best Chloramine Water Filters

At Pelican Water we carry many different options that combine activated carbon filters with other filtration technologies to effectively reduce chloramines and DBPS in your tap water and shower water. Some manufacturers recommend a two-pronged approach, utilizing catalytic carbon filters to remove the chlorine elements of chloramines and a reverse osmosis filter to address the ammonia. Consider all of these options, and contact a Pelican Water professional if you have any questions.

Pelican Premium Shower Filter - Protect your skin and hair from damage and eliminate the worry of inhaling chloroform gas and other THMs by installing a Pelican Premium Shower Filter in your shower. Three distinct filtration stages utilize copper and zinc oxidation media, GAC carbon media, and far-infrared balls to safely reduce chloramines, chlorine, and related chemicals from your shower water to keep your skin and hair healthier, softer, and protected.

Countertop Drinking Filter System - The Pelican Water Countertop Drinking Filter System may be the most economical choice for families living in apartments or condos. This water filter system filters and reduces more than 60 contaminants including chloramine. The system is NSF-certified and filters chloramines at a rate of 95%, resulting in healthier, great-tasting water for your whole family.

Premium Whole House Water Filter System - The compact EZ-Connect series of water filters are designed to accommodate smaller dwellings where a large filtration system isn’t feasible. For families living in apartments, RVs, condos, or houseboats this system that targets chlorine and chloramine will filter contaminants without taking up much space. Invest in our specific 20” chloramine model for peace of mind.

Chloramines are questionable disinfectants with a range of negative health effects and an unpleasant odor and taste. If you have any questions about our products or about protecting your family from chloramines contact a Pelican Water specialist today.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been reviewed by the FDA. Products offered for sale herein are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. No medical claims are being made or implied. Contaminants mentioned are not necessarily in your water.