-Compiled by Kenneth Harper Finton
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has illuminated a potential nationwide crisis, as the chemicals that they used corroded the pipes was chloramine which leached lead out of the old pipes and caused an emergency situation in Flint. But Flint is not the only city that uses this dangerous chemical. One in five Americans are bathing with and drinking water polluted intentionally with chloramine. SOURCE
Before Flint, there was a lead scare in Washington, D.C. in 2004. The city’s tap water contained as much as 30 times the acceptable levels of lead. The explanation for that increase is that Washington’s water treatment facilities began disinfecting water with chloramine instead of chlorine. Chloramine is the compound that causes the pipes to leach lead into the water supply. It is a compound of chlorine and ammonia that is easier to handle and much more stable than chlorine. It is also cheaper. Chloramine is now used in about 20% of the American drinking water systems.
Refrigerator filters, pitcher (carafe) filters, and faucet attachment filters do not work with chloramine. They deteriorate at a rapid rate and due to their lack of contact time, cannot effectively remove dissolved lead, or chloramine and its toxic byproducts from your tap water. SOURCE:
In January 2011, NPR ran an exposé on the water treatments systems across the United States.
Sometimes solving one problem leads to even more serious problems. Chlorine is used to disinfect our drinking water by killing the living organisms from the water. It has been used for over a century but it leaves toxic by-products.
“…One of the biggest unintended consequences of adding chlorine to water was that it reacts with some of the organic matter in the water to produce carcinogenic by-products,” says David Sedlak, of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.
Reports from several sources, including the Science Journal, report “The Chlorine Dilemma,” have shown that chloramine also has significant risks.
Chloramine does not produce the same by-products as chlorine. It does produce its own toxins, including chemicals called nitrosamines.
Nitrosamines are chemical compounds of the chemical structure R¹N-N=O, that is, a nitroso group bonded to an amine. Most nitrosamines are carcinogenic. Wikipedia
CHLORAMINE – WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO YOU REMOVE IT?
If desired, chloramine and ammonia can be completely removed from the water by boiling; however, it will take 20 minutes of gentle boil to do that. Just a short boil of water to prepare tea or coffee removes about 30% of chloramine. Conversely, chlorine was not as consistently removed by boiling in SFPUC tests. Jun 29, 2013
Chloramine is a compound of chlorine and ammonia and is fast becoming a familiar substance in our water. It is being used in place of chlorine to disinfect city water in over 22% of American municipal water treatment facilities and the number is growing.
Here is what you must know about chloramine and the problems associated with it:
- Mixing chlorine and ammonia results is a dangerous chemical called monochloramine. It is a toxic nerve gas and is very irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. This is what is being used in municipal water systems to disinfect the water we use to drink, bathe, shower, and cook.
- Chloramine does not dissipate from water like chlorine does. If you let chlorinated water sit for 30-60 minutes, it will dissipate from the standing water (though it will still leave behind toxic byproducts and VOCs). When you shower, chlorine and chloramine both release into the air and you inhale it, causing irritation the lungs, throat, and eyes. People who suffer from asthma, upper respiratory issues, and cystic fibrosis cannot afford to be inhaling these chemicals.
- Chloramine has been linked to several health concerns, including gastrointestinal irritation and skin disorders (i.e. eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis). Those who shower and bathe in filtered water exhibit relief from these issues.
- Chloramine produces by-products known as nitrosodimethylamines (NDMA’s) that may be more carcinogenic than their predecessors (nitrates/nitrites).
- Chloramine cannot be removed by typical water treatment technique. All sink attachment gadgets, refrigerator filters, and pitcher filters are useless for filtering out chloramines. Chloramine requires special filtration media.
- Chloramine can cause genetic damage in mammals, including human beings (keep reading below for more information).
In addition, a study conducted by the University of Illinois in 2004 demonstrates that a by-product of the chloramination of drinking water known as iodoacids (eye-o-doe-acids) may be the most toxic ever found in drinking water. The concern is the genetic damage they can cause in mammals (including humans) that drink chloraminated water, but also the fact that these dangerous chemicals are being released back into the environment where fish, wildlife, and the food chain can be harmed.
Like chlorine, chloramine is designed to kill pathogenic organisms by penetrating their cell walls and membranes and disrupting their metabolism. Chloramines are much slower to react so they are not as effective. Unlike chlorine, they do not evaporate from water, nor are they removed by typical water treatment techniques. The only resolution is to move somewhere else, drill your own well, or get an effective filter made specifically for removing chloramine from your drinking and showering water.
Ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate completely neutralize both chlorine and chloramine, but degrade in a day or two, which makes them usable only for short-term applications. SFPUC determined that 1000 mg of Vitamin C tablets, crushed and mixed in with bath water, completely remove chloramine in a medium-size bathtub without significantly depressing pH.
Chloramine is more difficult to remove from drinking water than chlorine. Chlorine is easily removed from water just by boiling, which means that there will be no chlorine in hot drinks like tea or coffee, nor in cooked food. However, unlike chlorine, chloramine is not fully removed by boiling water, and carbon filters are not good at removing chloramine either.
Fortunately, there is a very simple method to remove chloramine from drinking water: just by adding vitamin C. SOURCE
You only need a very small amount of vitamin C to completely neutralize the chloramine in your drinking water: around 10 mg (0.01 grams) of vitamin C will neutralize all the chloramine in one liter of water.
WHAT DOES THE EPA SAY ABOUT CHLORAMINES?
Recently San Francisco Public Utility Commision (SFPUC) changed from using free chlorine to chloramine in its drinking water transmission pipes. Some people are concerned for possible public health implications and for reported effects on fish and amphibians.
Using chloramine to disinfect drinking water is a common standard practice among drinking water utilities. A number of utilities have made this switch from chlorine to chloramines to enhance water safety and compliance with drinking water health standards. For example, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which serves drinking water to customers in parts of the greater San Francisco Bay area, switched from chlorine to using chloramine in February, 1998.
Background information on chloramines
Chlorine has been safely used for more than 100 years for disinfection of drinking water to protect public health from diseases which are caused by bacteria, viruses and other disease causing organisms. Chloramines, the monochloramine form in particular, have also been used as a disinfectant since the 1930’s. Chloramines are produced by combining chlorine and ammonia. While obviously toxic at high levels, neither pose health concerns to humans at the levels used for drinking water disinfection.
Chloramines are weaker disinfectants than chlorine, but are more stable, thus extending disinfectant benefits throughout a water utility’s distribution system. They are not used as the primary disinfectant for your water. Chloramines are used for maintaining a disinfectant residual in the distribution system so that disinfected drinking water is kept safe. Chloramine can also provide the following benefits:
•Since chloramines are not as reactive as chlorine with organic material in water, they produce substantially lower concentrations of disinfection byproducts in the distribution system. Some disinfection byproducts, such as the trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), may have adverse health effects at high levels. These disinfection byproducts are closely regulated by EPA. EPA recently reduced the allowable Maximum Contaminant Levels for total THMs to 80 ug/L and now limit HAAs to 60 ug/L. The use of chlorine and chloramines is also regulated by the EPA. We have Maximum Residual Disinfectant Levels of 4.0 mg/L for both these disinfectants. However, our concern is not from their toxicity, but to assure adequate control of the disinfection byproducts.
•Because the chloramine residual is more stable and longer lasting than free chlorine, it provides better protection against bacterial regrowth in systems with large storage tanks and dead-end water mains.
•Chloramine, like chlorine, is effective in controlling biofilm, which is a slime coating in the pipe caused by bacteria. Controlling biofilms also tends to reduce coliform bacteria concentrations and biofilm-induced corrosion of pipes.
•Because chloramine does not tend to react with organic compounds, many systems will experience less incidence of taste and odor complaints when using chloramine.
Other concerns with chloramines in drinking water
Chloramines, like chlorine, are toxic to fish and amphibians at levels used for drinking water. Unlike chlorine, chloramines do not rapidly dissipate on standing. Neither do they dissipate by boiling. Fish owners must neutralize or remove chloramines from water used in aquariums or ponds. Treatment products are readily available at aquarium supply stores. Chloramines react with certain types of rubber hoses and gaskets, such as those on washing machines and hot water heaters. Black or greasy particles may appear as these materials degrade. Replacement materials are commonly available at hardware and plumber supply stores.
WHAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT CHLORAMINE IN TAP WATER?
Chloramination of Drinking Water
by Erin Brockovich
Water utilities across the country are changing the way they treat our drinking water. They’re switching from chlorine, the primary disinfectant used in drinking water systems for over a hundred years, to the alternative disinfectant chloramine at an alarming rate. But are they making a sound, informed decision? What are the health effects? Where are the studies to help us understand the impacts to our health and infrastructure?
The fact of the matter is chloramines are a terrible mistake. While utility companies often use chloramines as a matter of convenience, there are far safer alternatives. As a world-leading nation, we have to stop cutting corners where our health and safety are at stake.
Historically, drinking water disinfection with chlorine has been extremely successful in addressing bacterial and viral contamination. It has virtually wiped out waterborne diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery. However, chlorine disinfection may also cause health risks. When chlorine is added to the water, it not only kills bacteria and viruses, but it also reacts with other chemicals dissolved in the water to form new compounds, known as disinfection byproducts. Some of these byproducts, such as trihalomethanes, are thought to cause cancer and pose other long-term health risks.
Chloramine, on the other hand, is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. While chlorine dissipates and evaporates into the air relatively quickly, chloramine is more stable and will last longer in the water system. The goal is to provide increased protection from bacterial contamination. Chloramine also happens to be the cheapest and easiest of the options available to water utilities. Yet even though the use of chloramine is convenient, it may not be safe.
Studies indicate chloramine causes more rapid deterioration of the municipal infrastructure and degradation of valves and fittings. In water systems that still use lead pipes or components, this causes lead and other metals to leach into drinking water and out of faucets and showerheads. The chemicals themselves may not cost much, but we can’t afford their consequences.
On top of all these infrastructure and health problems associated with chloramine use, there is growing evidence that chloramine forms toxic byproducts as it disinfects. This also occurs with the use of chlorine, but recent studies indicate the formation of toxic byproducts in drinking water may be higher when utilities use chloramines. These studies also indicate that chloramine causes more dangerous byproducts than other treatment alternatives, such as ozone or chlorine dioxide.
Disinfection byproducts are created when the compounds used for disinfecting drinking water react with natural organic matter, bromide, or iodide. Research shows that the byproducts are highly toxic to mammalian cells like ours, and they’re known to affect cells’ genetic material, which can cause mutation or cancer. In studies, some of these byproducts, such as iodoacetic acid, have been shown to cause developmental abnormalities in mouse embryos. Other byproducts of chloramine use include the highly toxic human carcinogens hydrazine and N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Hydrazine is the primary ingredient in rocket fuel and is extremely toxic at very low levels in drinking water. NDMA is also a chemical used in the manufacture of rocket fuels. Both chemicals are a result of the chloramine’s combination of ammonia and chlorine, a potentially deadly cocktail.
Amazingly, it’s not even clear that chloramine’s benefits are worth these risks. Chloramine is 200 times less effective than chlorine in killing e-coli bacteria, rotaviruses, and polio.
How many times do we have to hear water utilities complain that the EPA is making them adopt chloramines? This is not the truth. Time and time again, water utilities shift the blame from themselves and take the easy way out, pointing to some higher authority as responsible.
These utility companies are blaming chloramines adoption on the EPA Stage I and Stage II Disinfectants and Disinfection By-Products Rule (DBPR), which has been actively negotiated since 1992. These rules tighten drinking water regulations, requiring utilities to provide their customers with cleaner, safer drinking water. To support the science behind these regulations, well over $100 million in research has been conducted to better define the risks from microbial pathogens and disinfection byproducts.
The Stage II DBPR and the Long Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule are the second phase of rules required by Congress. Set to take effect in 2012, these rules strengthen protection against microbial contaminants and aim to reduce dangerous disinfection byproducts. The rule targets water systems with the greatest risk and builds incrementally on existing rules. Under the Stage II DBPR, systems will conduct an evaluation of their distribution systems to identify the locations with high disinfection byproduct concentrations. These locations will then be used as the sampling sites for Stage II DBPR compliance monitoring.
Utility companies are concerned that these new regulations are too expensive. To cut costs, many are choosing to adopt chloramine treatment. It’s the cheapest way of meeting the EPA’s new regulations, but it’s one of the most dangerous ways of getting the job done.
There are several alternatives recommended by the EPA that do not involve adding more chemicals to our drinking water. All of the alternatives involve removing organic contaminants through enhanced coagulation or sedimentation, filtration, or carbon adsorption. Within those three areas of treatment, there are scores of readily available, real-world applicable options. Alternative disinfectants, such as ozone and chlorine dioxide, are better, but they too can cause the formation of other byproducts. All this demonstrates the need to effectively remove the bad stuff in our drinking water rather than trying to merely treat it with chemicals.
Collectively, we can stop the poisoning of our drinking water supplies. Speak up, and tell your water utilities, state officials, and the EPA, “We are informed, we understand the issue, and we do not want you to continue contaminating our water supplies.” Cite the Cincinnati’s experience with granular activated carbon (GAC) as an alternative.
In December 1978, Richard Miller became director of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, home to the EPA Research Center and Office of Administration and Resources Management. Miller spearheaded the creation and implementation of a vision that would provide Water Works customers with the high-quality water they desired at a price they could afford. In 1992, he implemented a post-filtration granular activated carbon process, which essentially vacuumed up the dangerous contaminants in water. Using this process, Miller eliminated the need to sully Cincinnati’s water with chlorine, chloramine, or any other dangerous chemicals.
Eighteen years later, Mr. Miller explains, “It is better to remove contaminants by adsorption with GAC instead of adding chemicals that might have unintended consequences. Science is continually identifying additional chemicals in the drinking water supply, often in minute concentrations. While evidence may be lacking that many may pose no significant threat to public health, removing them as an additional benefit of treatment for other purposes is advantageous.”
SEE THE SLIDESHOW ON THE DANGERS OF CHLORAMINE
Does Your City Use Chlorine or Chloramines? Check the list at: http://dudegrows.com/watercheck/