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Chloramines: What They’re Doing In Your Water (And Your Body)

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Australians are blessed with near-universal access to clean drinking water, but that cleaning doesn’t happen on its own. A quick whiff of a glass filled from an unfiltered Australian tap can sometimes smell more like your local swimming pool than a quick refreshment. Chloramines are persistent disinfectant chemicals that can reduce the intensity of this smell, but they come with their own drawbacks.
Chloramine Disinfection: The Good, The Bad and The Toxic
Monochloramine (the form typically used in water treatment, often just called ‘chloramine’) is formed by adding ammonia to chlorinated water. While it’s a slightly less effective disinfectant than straight chlorine, chloramine takes much longer to dissipate. This makes it better for treating water that travels long distances through pipes and water systems, as it has a better chance of killing bacteria that doesn’t enter the water until later in its journey. However, this also means it’s more likely to still be in your water when it reaches your home – along with any disinfection by-products it creates along the way. Disinfection by-products (DPBs) are chemicals produced by the reactions of disinfectants like chloramine with organic matter (like bacteria or skin cells) in the water. These by-products can often be quite harmful if not kept below safe limits. Chloramine can help reduce the DPBs of chlorine (chloral hydrate, chloroacetic acids, chlorite, etc.), but the addition of ammonia means chloramine produces its own by-products. These can range from simple excess ammonia to highly toxic cyanogen chloride. Chloramine is also more acidic than chlorine, so it can have a greater impact on metal pipes. This leads to elevated levels of substances like copper and lead in drinking water. Better than water-borne diseases, perhaps, but not necessarily things you want to be putting in your body every time you need a glass of water.
Say, What’s In This Drink?
Government bodies monitor DPBs and contaminants to make sure they stay within the bounds of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG). However, the ADWG makes it very clear that while harmful DPBs should be minimised, any efforts to control them should not come at the cost of the disinfection process. Essentially, it’s better to allow some of these chemicals to remain in the water than to risk more dangerous contaminants ending up in people’s homes.  Disinfectants are an important part of water treatment, but there is no reason to keep them in your water after it reaches your home. Both chlorine and chloramine can cause irritation in your lungs, eyes and skin, exacerbating the symptoms of existing conditions like eczema and asthma. Studies have even linked exposure to chloramine DPBs to increased chances of bladder and rectal cancer. While these kinds of serious illnesses are rare, even levels designated as “safe” can affect your body. Your kidneys are responsible for flushing toxins out of your body, but they need large amounts of fresh water to do so – and if that water has contaminants or toxins in it, your kidneys will have a much harder job to do. The other side of this coin is that our bodies get a lot more out of clean water. When less water is used by the kidneys, more can be sent around the body for proper hydration. Every cell in our body needs to be hydrated to function properly, especially in our brain and digestive system. Drinking plenty of clean water has an enormous range of health benefits, from healthier skin and easier digestion to better short-term memory and mental health. When your water is clean and tasty, you get the double benefit of wanting to drink more often and getting more from every glass!
Your Water, Your Home – Your Choice
Clean drinking water without chloramine
Thinking about ammonia and lead in your water can be frightening, especially when you’re only able to filter the water you drink. Fortunately, however, there is a simple solution to protect your whole home from DPBs: Complete Home Filtration. By filtering the water as it enters your home, you can get all the benefits of disinfected water without worrying about DPBs. A whole-home system provides filtered water from every tap, so whether you’re using it for drinking, bathing or cleaning, you can enjoy the benefits of chemical-free water. Had enough of refilling filter jugs or buying bottled water? Tired of masking the smell of eau de swimming pool? Even if you have the contaminants under control, managing unfiltered water can be a real hassle. Dry skin and hair, scale build-up around taps and fixtures, even reducing the lifespan of your water-using appliances – hard water and unfiltered chloramine simply aren’t good for your quality of life. In addition to all the health benefits of filtered water, a Complete Home Filtration system will save you time and money. Filtered water is more effective and efficient for washing and cleaning, as soaps and shampoos lather more easily and cleaning chemicals work in smaller doses. Brew better-tasting teas and coffees and fill your water bottles directly from the tap without wasting time on additional jugs or individual filters. If you’d like to know more about your water and how you can improve it, you can find us on Facebook or contact us for free advice – or just click on the survey link below to begin your Better Water journey!

Take control of what you’re putting in your body with Complete Home Filtration!

  • National Health & Medical Research Council. (2022). Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (3.7). Australian Government – Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council
  • Bougault, V., Turmel, J., Levesque, B. (2009). The Respiratory Health of Swimmers. Sports Med (39, p.295–312).
  • Egwari, L.O., Benson, N.U & Effiok, W.W. (2020) Chapter 8 – Disinfection by-product-induced diseases and human health risk. In Prasad, M.N.V. Disinfection By-products in Drinking Water (p.185-204). Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Morris, R.D., Audet, A.M., Angelillo, I.F., Chalmers, T.C. & Mosteller, F. (1992) Chlorination, chlorination by-products, and cancer: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health (82, p.955-963).