Chloramine ~ Why Not?

  • Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. 
  • Chlorine is a short term disinfectant while chloramine is longer lasting.

 (as Cl2)
(CAS Registry Number: 

Chloramine (as CI2) is a water additive used to control microbes, particularly as a residual disinfectant in distribution system pipes. It is formed when ammonia is added to water containing free chlorine. Monochloramine is one form of chloramines commonly used for disinfection by municipal water systems. Other chloramines (di- and tri-) are not intentionally used to disinfect drinking water and are generally not formed during the drinking water disinfection process.

Effects of Chloramine on Human Health

 What's Wrong With Chloramine?

Q.  What's Wrong With Chloramine?

Effects of Chloramine on Human Health

A.   Some people who use water containing chloramine in excess of the maximum residual disinfectant level could experience irritating effects to their eyes and nose, stomach discomfort or anemia.

 Chloramine is a less effective disinfectant than chlorine. The World Health Organization says that "monochloramine is about 2,000 and 100,000 times less effective than free chlorine for the inactivation of E. Coli and rotaviruses, respectively." 

• Chloramine does not dissipate easily compared to chlorine.

• Chloramine stays in the water distribution system longer than chlorine.

• Chloramine is much more expensive to remove than chlorine.

• Chloramine cannot be removed by boiling, distilling, or by standing uncovered.

• Some disinfection byproducts of chloramine are even more toxic than those of chlorine, i.e. iodoacids.

• Chloramine vapours and its disinfection by-products can accumulate in indoor air and concentrate in an enclosed area such as a shower stall, small bathroom, kitchen, or apartment (see Toxic Showers and Baths on this website).

Immune System Problems

• Chloramine cannot kill the pathogens in the water as well as chlorine.

• As a result, people with suppressed immune systems must have their water boiled over TEN minutes BEFORE use to kill pathogens, or they risk becoming ill.

• Those at risk include children under 6 months of age, the elderly, those on or who have had chemotherapy, people with HIV or AIDS, organ transplant patients, and others with a weakened immune system.

Respiratory Problems

• Chloramine can cause and/or aggravate respiratory problems.

• Chloramine fumes can cause an individual to become congested and cause sneezing, sinus congestion, coughing, choking, wheezing, shortness of breath, and asthma by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services).

• An increase in asthma due to exposure from chloramine in indoor swimming pool areas was shown in a Belgium study from the Catholic University of Louvain.

• Chloramine damages mucous membranes. The lung damage in those exposed to chloramine in indoor pool air is similar to that seen in regular smokers.

• Chloraminated vapour from showers, baths, hot tubs, dishwashers, and other household appliances contains volatilized chemicals that can be inhaled and cause irritation to the respiratory tract.

• Inhaled chloraminated vapour can enter the bloodstream directly through the lungs. It bypasses the digestive tract where the SFPUC says it is broken down and excreted.

• The SFPUC says that, "if monochloramine enters the bloodstream directly, it combines with hemoglobin (red blood cells) so it can no longer carry oxygen"

• The toxic exposure to chemicals (like chloramine) in water is greater from taking a shower than from drinking the same water (see Toxic Showers and Baths).

An individual can experience long term effects from repeated exposures to a chemical (like chloramine) at levels not high enough to make them immediately sick (see the Hazardous Substances Fact Sheet for Chloramine, page 3, PDF, 98 KB).

The likelihood of becoming sick from a chemical increases with exposure time and concentration (see the Hazardous Substances Fact Sheet for Chloramine.

In a study by Zierler, et al, it was found that there was an increase in deaths from influenza and pneumonia in the communities that used chloramine. (Communities in Massachusetts that used chlorine for disinfection were compared to those that used chloramine).

1) Chloramine exposure damages lung mucosa, making the lungs more susceptible to allergens and infections.

2) Chloramine is a less effective disinfectant and therefore people are exposed to more pathogens.

Skin Problems

Chloramine tap water can cause severe skin reactions:

Rashes, dry skin, itching, flaking, welting, blistering, chapping, burning sensation, cracking, scarring, bleeding, pigmentation.

 Chloramine can aggravate other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

 Chloramine can cause bleeding lips, dry mouth and dry throat.

• Chloramine can cause burning, red, and dry eyes.

 Skin exposure to ammonia "breaks down cell structural proteins, extracts water from the cells and initiates an inflammatory response, which further damages the surrounding tissues."

Digestive and Gastric Problems

 Chloramine damages digestive mucosa.

•Chloramine can aggravate digestive disorders.

It is suggested that monochloramine is responsible for gastric cancer. (Journal of Gastroenterology, 1997, "Enhancement by Monochloramine of the Development of Gastric Cancers in Rats; a possible mechanism of Helicobacter, pylori-associated gastric carcinogenesis.

Kidney And Blood Problems

Persons with liver or kidney disease and those with hereditary urea cycle disorders are at increased risk for ammonia toxicity from the consumption of chloraminated water.

• Kidney dialysis patients cannot use chloraminated water in their dialysis machines because it will cause hemolytic anemia.

• Chloramine must be completely removed from the water in dialysis treatment using extensive carbon filtration and a reverse osmosis or Cation filtering system to remove both chlorine and ammonia from the water.

• There are populations that are unusually susceptible to ammonia reactivity or toxicity due to factors such as genetic makeup, age, health status, etc.

Plumbing Problems and Health Implications

• Chloramine can cause leaching of lead from lead pipes, lead soldering and from so called "lead free" brass plumbing parts.

• Lead leached by chloramine can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause neurological damage, health problems and even death in young children.

• Chloramine can cause pinhole pitting in copper pipes. Leaks from the pinholes can cause mould to grow. Some moulds are highly toxic to humans and can endanger the health of individuals, often permanently.

• Insurance companies might not cover damage from mould. This can lead to costly repairs.

• Chloramine can cause rubber corrosion of rubber plumbing parts like toilet flappers and rubber casings.

• Rubber corroded parts need to be replaced with chloramine resistant parts such as synthetic polymer.

• Rubber corrosion can be spotted as early as 6 months after chloramine has been added to the water supply. Signs of corrosion can be seen when little black specks appear in the water from plumbing parts.

• The thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in plumbing repair costs caused by chloramine are passed on to property owners.

Environmental Effects

• Canadian EPA ruled chloramine "toxic" as defined in Section 64 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as a result of a study assessing the impact of high volume chloraminated water discharges entering the environment, particularly on fish.

• Chloramine is toxic to fish, amphibians, and water-based reptiles and marine invertebrates. Chloramine enters directly into the bloodstream of fish, and amphibians through gills and skin, respectively.

• Chloramine must be removed from the water with a GAC (granular activated carbon) filter followed by a reverse osmosis or Cation filter.

Note: The GAC filtration filters out only the chlorine from the chloramine molecule leaving the ammonia behind.

• Chloramine run-off from water hydrants or broken mains that enter storm drains, streams, lakes, rivers, and creeks, endangers the lives of fish, amphibians, water invertebrates, and other sensitive marine animals.

• Chloramine must be filtered out BEFORE it reaches bodies of water. This includes wastewater released into the environment from wastewater treatment plants.


• Filtration for chloramine is very expensive compared to filtration for just chlorine.

• To remove chloramine, an extensive carbon filter (to remove the chlorine part of the chloramine molecule) followed by a reverse osmosis or cation filter (to remove the ammonia) is necessary.

• A shower filter with a whole house filter will remove 99% or more of the chlorine and chloramine.

• A whole house filtration system costs between $600 to $6,000 with annual maintenance costs of ;$100-$300.

November 27, 2012

Some Residents Worry about Chloramine’s Usage and Safety
"DBPs are over 10,000 times more toxic than chlorine, and out of all the other toxins and contaminants present in your water, such as fluoride and miscellaneous pharmaceutical drugs, DBPs are likely the absolute worst of the bunch." Dr. Mercola

"The Finest Energized Water Purification Systems Since 1995"

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