Chloramine? WTH?

Chloramine, made out of chlorine and ammonia, causes respiratory, skin, and digestive symptoms, some life-threatening, in some people where ever it is used to disinfect public water supplies. More and more water treatment facilities are using it because it is a cheap way to meet a relatively new and quite stupid EPA disinfection byproduct rule. Thus more and more people are getting sick as it goes into more and more public water supplies.

Chloramine has never been studied for skin, respiratory, or digestive effects as a water disinfectant even though thousands and possibly millions have already developed these very symptoms after chloramine comes into their water supply. There are no epidemiological studies. There are too few cancer studies for the EPA to be able to determine if it causes cancer or not. However, some of the data shows that is does. Check the EPA Integrated Risk Information System on monochloramine (the species of choramine used in public water supplies) here:

Citizens in several states have organized to fight chloramine, and now Erin Brockovich has taken on the fight because of how many people are being made sick. Citizens Concerned About Chloramine- they’ve been fighting chloramine since 2004 and their website is extensive: Go here to see Vermonters testify to EPA and CDC officials about their chloramine-caused symptoms:

I’m living with my aunt here in the hills east of Sacramento, and she gets her water from a spring. She cleaned the leaves & such out of it a while back and found a dead mouse in the water.

I have to assume that water would not be a good choice for topping up to five gallons once you’ve cooled your wort.

Smeghead, no insult taken, however, this was not necessarily a huge leap of logic on my part. The only real difference in the Florida versus Houston environments seemed to be the bathing water. I will admit maybe there are spores in the air, or maybe the auto exhaust is more mutagenic (probably the wrong usage of the word) in Houston, but when you whittle it down to 4 or 5 possible causes and then click them off one by one–is that not the scientific method, or am I out to lunch?

Then we have watersquaw, who seems to have found something similar to the Google page I saw. And we’re back to square one. Ain’t science great?

BTW, the community I lived in in FL had its own water treatment facility, and every once in a while taking a shower was like being gassed when they had just put in a fresh batch of whatever-the-hell-it-was (tasted like chlorine). When local water safety people were contacted by me, they were very professional and concerned and straightforward re the situation: the PPM chemical in the water met safety standards, and if I was having problems (as were several neighbors) TFB. Get a whole house filter (not my house; renting).

BTW again, not bathing for a week to test this hypothesis (more scientific method?) is not an option. This summer temps in Houston are expected to reach 113 degrees F. You WILL be able to smell me from wherever you are.

I think I’ve grossed out enough people for now.

Based on your fact-filled post above, you must be one of the scientists that Smeghead has made reference to. Did you actually read the IRIS report which basically states that there is no conclusive evidence of long-term carcinogenic or cancer effects (unless you’re referring to the studies showing higher bladder cancer rates for those drinking water disinfected with chlorine)? Again I’m not taking sides but it is possible to find people who will suffer skin problems from virtually any chemical that is used (whether natural or synthetic).

The purpose of my earlier post was to point out how chloramines are formed and used as disinfectants along with an attempt to point out the myriad of issues that any municipality faces when making decisions regarding treatment of drinking water. Chloramines have been used to disinfect public water systems for over 90 years.

Your "cheap way to meet a relatively new and quite stupid EPA disinfection byproduct rule is a particularly concise and effective statement of absolute ignorance. First of all the use of the ammonia-chlorine is not less expensive than chlorine based systems, second the disinfection by product rule is not new as it was originally promulgated back in the late 90’s (too lazy to look up the exact date right now), and third, and most importantly, your characterization of it as “stupid” is laughable since the rule is intended, as I pointed out earlier, to protect the public health and welfare from the effects of HAA5’s and TTHM’s, both of which have been identified as carcinogenic among other effects.

Not sure how big the community was that you were living in in FL but are you sure you were dealing with the local water safety people and not the janitor? Their response is indicative of an extremely non-professional and, I might add, very unscientific methodology. I would have tried to get you to more precisely describe the exact odor or taste (you reference both) coming from the water. Most public water supplies do not shock chlorinate to disinfect, the application of chlorine or any disinfectant is usually continuous and at a relatively consistent dosage rate. Not knowing the source (surface or ground water, and other water quality parameters) it is possible that the odor could have been from hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs) or taste issues from geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB) among many other things.

I would also have explained that you and your neighbors may not have experienced something related to the operation of the water treatment plant but rather the problem may have been due to poor distribution of water within the system. This can lead to a myriad of problems including localized low levels of disinfectants due to long residence time in the mains or laterals thus allowing for the buildup of odor and taste constituents.

It’s late so I will sign off for now.

Hey, Waterman, you may find this amusing–in Florida, once you’re outside the bigger cities, “water treatment facilities” are pretty much mom-and-pop outfits that answer to “the county.” The community I lived in was approx 200 houses hooked into, apparently, a tank about the size of half a single wide mobile home (note the clever “backwoods” reference). The safety guys I was in contact with were from “the county,” but it seems the disinfectant process consisted of the janitor (good term by you) coming out every coupla days and dumping the 5-gallon bucket of whatever-the-hell-it-was into the tank. If he dumped it in too fast, chlorine taste (not to mention that scaly dried-out feeling on your skin).

Your second paragraph was right on the mark, and I had forgotten that until you brought it up: neighbors I talked to further up the line had it worse than we did, ones further down the line seemed to not get much at all. And the taste of the water after Gomer made the drop was pretty close to what we shocked the pool with–hydrogen sulfide is really hard to ignore or mis-diagnose; the other two things you mentioned I’m not familiar with.

Now, the cynic in me loves to scream, “I’m a rural (or big-city, for that matter) water treatment plant and if I can save 3 cents a gallon of water consumed by shocking with Ronco disinfectant, screw 'em, you want to live forever? You want better water, pay more taxes.”

But that’s just me.

Thanks for the info/comments.

Okay, Mister Waterman. I am going to reply to your sarcastic and demeaning comments (“Based on your fact-filled post above…”, etc.). ONCE. And then I’m not going to tangle with you after that. I could be wrong, but you sound like you are someone who is involved with chloramine professionally somehow and has a stake in making me look stupid.

You wrote, “Did you actually read the IRIS report which basically states that there is no conclusive evidence of long-term carcinogenic or cancer effects…” Yes. (And again, I don’t deserve your sarcasm and sneering you-know-nothing words and tone.) For cancer in humans AND animals it says, “Inadequate.” That means they haven’t done enough studies to determine if chloramine causes cancer, which is what I said. I also wrote, “However, some of the data shows that is does.” One of the studies in the IRIS says there is an association between occurrence of mononuclear leukemia in female rats and consumption of chloraminated water. Maybe if they did a reasonable amount of cancer research, informed citizens wouldn’t feel like guinea pigs in your big chloramine experiment.

You wrote, “Chloramines have been used to disinfect public water systems for over 90 years.” Okay, now I know who you are- no one else brings up Denver. It comes originally from the SFPUC, where the first group of citizens rose up against chloramine. What you also know but aren’t sharing- but hey, maybe you don’t know- is that until 2005, Denver used 0.5 to 0.8 mg/L of chloramine in their water, for taste and odor control only. Since 2005, when Denver upped the dosage to what all the places that chloraminate use, people from Denver have been reporting skin, respiratory and digestive symptoms.

ALL you water treatment guys/EPA/health departments have to back up your claim that chloramine is perfectly safe is that there aren’t any studies saying it isn’t safe it must be okay to use (when you know darn well there are no studies period!), and it’s been used since the Stone Age and no one’s complained. ANECDOTAL. Yet you think it’s fine to put chloramine in our drinking water and let us bathe in it, drink it, cook with it, feed our babies with it, wash our clothes in it, brush our teeth in it, year in and year out. Wow.

Did you know that one of the things they found out in the Zierler et al study you referred to was in the town they used for a control, they discovered there were more deaths from pneumonia than in the town they were studying? Are you aware that the control town uses chloraminated water? WHY was there never any follow-up research on that, given SO many people in the U.S. suffer from respiratory symptoms when exposed to chloraminated steam in the shower, on the stove, from the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc. and also from aerosols in the shower? Are you aware of Dr. Richard Bull’s experiment where he put mice in a beaker of chloraminated water to see what would happen to their skin, but before 10 minutes was gone every one of them was dead from respiratory distress?

You said, "Your “cheap way to meet a relatively new and quite stupid EPA disinfection byproduct rule is a particularly concise and effective statement of absolute ignorance.” WhOA! You are SO hostile! I said, “More and more water treatment facilities are using it because it is a cheap way to meet a relatively new and quite stupid EPA disinfection byproduct rule.” You sure are "the woman who DOTH protest too much! Enough to misquote me all over the place! Wow!

You sneer at me and call me stupid, but I am not. The EPA rule IS a stupid one because the EPA has recommended using chloramine, which has its own set of disinfection byproducts (DBPs), many of which are 100 to 10,000 times more toxic than trihalomethanes and halo acetic acids, and NONE of them are regulated, which means, anyone else who reads this, they don’t have to test your drinking water for them. You could be drinking and bathing in dodo acids, which CHANGE DNA, o NDMA, which is a highly toxic and known carcinogen. Haloaceto nitriles ( is another one. But you’ll never know, because no one is testing for them. What are you going to do, Mister Waterman, when the EPA regulates those and some of the other more toxic of chloramine’s DBPs and your precious chloramine system has to go down the tubes and you have to go to something else, like the TOC pre-filtriton you should have done in the first place?