Chlorine has been a hot topic as of late when discussing water quality. People are becoming more informed on water treatment processes and how they work. Much has been written and reported on concerning chlorine and its byproducts, as used to treat city water supplies. There also have been complaints that include a foul taste and odor. According to the Water Quality Association, "Numerous labels have been given to odors in water. Among the 20 or so recorded are cucumber, earthy, fishy, grassy, and sulfur." Lastly, there are also health concerns regarding elevated levels of chlorine in drinking water.
What is chloramine? In recent years, cities have begun experimenting with the use of chloramine to treat drinking water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "Chloramines are disinfectants most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water." In essence, these disinfectants have the same job as chlorine, which is killing water-borne bacteria to ensure safe drinking water.
The hope is that it will prove to be effective, but with minimal negative taste and odor effects. In addition, municipalities are relishing the fact that chloramine in water may potentially be a healthier alternative to chlorine. Specifically, chloramine agents do not break down as quickly as chlorine while traveling through water pipes (more on that topic below).
The EPA states, "More than one in five Americans use drinking water treated with chloramines." But since its use is relatively new, it is a treatment process that has been less heavily scrutinized and studied than chlorine. A couple points to consider:
- According to the Water Quality Association, byproducts from chloramine are suspected carcinogens. However, the Center for Disease Control states on their website that chloramine creates fewer byproducts than chlorine. "Chloramine can last longer in the water pipes and produces fewer disinfection byproducts. To meet the EPA standards intended to reduce disinfection byproducts, some water utilities are switching to chloramine."
- Chloramines are difficult to filter out of healthy drinking water. This creates an issue for consumers who use filters that may have worked well with chlorine. Currently, the only effective means to reduce (nothing is 100%) chloramines in municipal water systems is through the use of specific carbon filtration systems.