May 9, 2011 | Lexington Clipper Herald | Shared as an educational material
Americans have clean and safe drinking water because water-supply companies rigorously treat it to adhere to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. While chlorine has long been used as a disinfectant in drinking water, more and more U.S. water supply companies have been switching to chloramine. In fact, the EPA estimates that more than one in five Americans use drinking water that contains chloramine.
But despite chloramine’s prevalent use, its safety for consumers is still highly debated.
Formed when ammonia is added to chlorine, chloramine is used to disinfect drinking water supplies, reducing the harmful bacteria that can lead to diseases. Water supply companies have been switching to chloramine in part because when chlorine is used as a disinfectant, it can react with naturally occurring organic material in water and form harmful byproducts. According to the EPA, chloramine also delivers better protection against bacteria than chlorine because it lasts longer in water distribution systems. Many believe it smells and tastes better than chlorine, but that’s debated as well.
Still, like chlorine, chloramine is a toxic chemical. The EPA maintains that chloramine in water at or below the federal standard is safe for drinking, cooking and bathing. However, chloramine has been shown to cause skin reactions and respiratory problems when consumed at higher levels. Chloramine in water can also cause lead to leach from pipes.
“Water disinfected with chloramine most often will not be a health threat to consumers, but many people do not want to drink water treated with chloramine,” says Jerry Kovach, vice president of research and development at Kinetico, a leading manufacturer of water treatment products. “Homeowners should be vigilant in making sure the quality of their drinking water is the best it can be. We recommend people have their water tested and learn what, if any, chemicals or other substances their water contains and at what levels.”
Many local water treatment professionals, like those who represent Kinetico, offer basic in-home testing for free. For a greater level of detail on the water’s quality, many water treatment professionals can collect samples for a more in-depth water analysis conducted by a third-party laboratory. A test will help homeowners determine whether or not they need a filtration system.
“The problem with chloramine is that it remains active in the water system for a long time, meaning it’s more difficult to remove by standard filtration systems,” says Kovach.
Kovach recommends choosing a quality device that is capable of filtering chloramine from water, which is important since not all systems are able to effectively reduce chloramine. Kinetico, for example, offers whole house specialty treatment solutions to help consumers filter chloramine from the water coming into their home.
“The best advice I can give homeowners is to first learn what’s present in the water you and your family drink. If problems are present, your water treatment professional can guide you to the right solution for your needs,” Kovach says.