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How to Remove Chloramine in Tap Water?

by Peter Lombardi

Quality Specialist, Consultant

> 4 min read

Chemicals such as chlorine and chloramine are added to tap water to kill pathogens and dangerous microorganisms, making it safe to drink. While these substances are effective at removing harmful materials, they can contribute to health problems. They also cause the water to taste and smell bad.

Although chloramine is present in large sections of the US water supply, many people prefer not to ingest it. While bottled water is a popular solution, some people seek ways of removing chloramine from their home’s water supply. This can be done using a couple of key methods and at a relatively low cost.

What is Chloramine?

Before establishing ways to remove chloramine from your water supply, it’s essential to gain a basic understanding of the chemical compound. Chloramines are ammonia and organic amines derivatives. They are classified as organic or inorganic. 

Chloramination is a process that involves adding chloramine to water supplies to disinfect them and remove germs. Chloramine is often used as a substitute for chlorine. The type of chloramine used to disinfect drinking water is called monochloramine. It’s mixed at a level that kills germs yet maintains consumption safety.

Around 22% of the US population drink water containing chloramine. This number looks set to grow as water system providers continue to switch from chlorine disinfecting to chloramine treatment. 

Although chlorine is a stronger disinfectant, it can be perceived to be dangerous. Chlorine is used to create disinfection byproducts (DBPs), called trihalomethanes (THMs). These contain volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that are carcinogenic. 

Chloramine is a more stable substance. While it is not as effective as a disinfectant, it lasts longer in water. Water containing chloramine of up to 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L) is healthy to drink.

Benefits of Chloramine

As a disinfectant and water treatment chemical, chloramine has some useful advantages:

  • Less carcinogenic than chlorine: chloramine isn’t as reactive a chemical as chlorine, meaning it doesn’t produce the same amount of cancerous DBPs as chlorine. 
  • Reduces bacterial growth: chloramine lasts longer in water than chlorine. Its residual is more stable, giving it better protective properties against bacterial growth within water distribution systems. 
  • Easy to install and cost-effective: chloramine technology is generally easy to install, and it is cost-effective. It is one of the cheapest water disinfectants available to homeowners.

Harmful Effects of Chloramine

Health and safety experts, such as the CDC, claim that chloramine levels up to 4 mg/L are unlikely to cause harmful health effects. However, there are exceptions, and when combined with other agents, chloramine may contribute to harmful drinking water. Many people choose to invest in comprehensive filtering systems to remove chloramine in tap water.

Some of the harmful effects of ingesting chloramine include:

Compromised Immune System

As well as killing harmful bacteria and pathogens in water, chloramine may also remove useful gut bacteria. Gut bacteria play a significant role in your overall health, helping the body metabolize nutrients, protecting it from infections, and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Those with already compromised immune systems may be at increased risk of contracting certain illnesses. Children, the elderly, and sick people must be extra vigilant about their immune systems when drinking chloramine-treated tap water. 

Respiratory Issues

The European Respiratory Journal discovered links between chloramine absorption and respiratory issues. Although the study is in reference to chloramine exposure from swimming pools, it found that those who came into contact with chloramine regularly experienced significantly more respiratory symptoms than the general population sample. 

Cumulative chloramine exposure was found to contribute to mild symptoms like hoarse voice and sinusitis. Those with existing or underlying conditions were at higher risk of more serious illnesses such as asthma. 

Chloramine is generally more dangerous when absorbed through inhalation than drinking as it disrupts the respiratory system. 

Skin Irritation

Chloramine contains ammonia, which can disconnect cell proteins, creating a reaction that may harm bodily tissue. Simply put, this type of reaction can cause negative responses from the skin, leading to irritations such as:

  • Skin rashes
  • Itching and peeling 
  • Blisters
  • Skin chapping
  • Skin cracking 
  • Skin discoloration
  • Scarring

The consumption of chloramine may also exacerbate ongoing skin problems like psoriasis and dermatitis. 

Kidney and Blood Problems

Those with kidney or blood problems shouldn’t absorb chloraminated water as it increases their risk of ammonia-based toxicity. Dialysis machines cannot use chloraminated water as it can cause hemolytic anemia.

Household Problems

Chloramine can cause wear and tear to your home that not only requires repairs but may lead to unhealthy water. It can leach lead from pipes and soldering, causing lead to turn up in your water supply. 

Chloramine can corrode pipes, creating pinhole pitting. These leaks often contribute to the growth of mold, which is toxic and unsightly. 

Rubber corrosion of plumbing components can occur after six months of chloramine in tap water. This can cause rubber particles to build up in the tap water. 

How to Remove Chloramine

If you’re worried about the potential risks associated with chloramine in your water supply, there are a few particularly effective ways of purifying your water.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is a process that purifies tap water by removing harmful materials and particles using a semi-permeable membrane. Reverse osmosis systems are popular household appliances as they effectively remove chloramine and chlorine from your water. It also gets rid of hazardous byproducts like heavy metals.

Carbon Filtering

Catalytic carbon filters remove contaminants like chloramine and improve the smell and taste of your tap water. These filters are cost-effective as they come in various sizes, ranging from single source filters to whole-house systems. 

If the water quality in your area is poor, a larger system may be worth the investment. Although small systems can be effective, they are notoriously slow, making filtration an inconvenience. Whole house filters can remove over 99.9% of chloramine from your home’s water supply.

Point-of-Use Filters

If you use one tap for drinking water, a point-of-use filter may be a suitable choice. It is installed to the connection where water is being drawn. They are generally fitted over or under the counter where your faucet is.

Prioritize Safe Drinking Water

Most US public water providers adhere to the EPA’s water quality standards. However, this doesn’t mean that all water is free from pathogens and contaminants. Your water supply can become contaminated easily, and your home’s plumbing system may be worsening water quality. 

Test your water every year and invest in a quality home filtration system to ensure you and your family consume clean and healthy water year-round.

Peter Lombardi

About the Author

Peter is a Los Angeles based water quality specialist, and works as a surveyor for businesses and communities looking to be informed and active about the quality of their water. He shares his expertise with 64 oz. to ensure everything is accurate, and to prevent the spread of misinformation about water contaminants.