Chloramines FAQ

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What are chloramines?
Chloramines are a combination of chlorine and a small amount of ammonia. The recommended maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) in Canadian Drinking Water Standards is 3mg/l.
Are chloramines new?
No. Many cities in the U. S. and Canada have used chloramines for decades. Actually the City of Lethbridge, the City of Red Deer and the City of Edmonton are presently using chloramines as a disinfectant.
Are chloramines safe?
Yes. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) accepts chloramines as a disinfectant and as a way to avoid formation of known carcinogens in the trihalomethane family of compounds. Chloraminated water is safe for bathing, drinking, cooking and all uses we have for potable water every day. However, there are two groups of people who need to take special care with chloraminated water: kidney dialysis patients and tropical fish owners.
What are trihalomethanes (THMs)?
THMs are some of the chemical compounds that are formed when chlorine mixes with naturally occurring organics in water. The USEPA has determined some THMs to be carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) for people.
What are the Health Risks?
Although Chloramines are nontoxic to healthy people, they can have a weakening effect on individuals with kidney disease who must undergo dialysis. Chloramines must be removed from the water used in dialysis treatments.
Also, Chloramines can be deadly for fish. They can damage gill tissue and enter the red blood cells causing a sudden and sever blood disorder. For this reason all Chloramine compounds must be removed from the water prior to any contact with fish.
What special precautions should kidney dialysis patients take?
Kidney dialysis patients can safely drink, cook, and bathe in chloraminated water. However, chloramines must be removed from the water used in kidney dialysis machines.
Dialysis systems already pre-treat their source water to remove chlorine. However, some modifications will be necessary to remove the chloramines. Home dialysis service companies can usually make the needed modifications, but you should check with your physician to be certain.
All medical facilities that perform kidney dialysis have been notified of this change to chloraminated water treatment. According to the ESRD [End Stage Renal Disease] federal regulations, these facilities are responsible for purifying the water that enters the dialysis machines.
The Southern Alberta Renal Program has already installed the appropriate carbon filters in home-based water systems of home hemodialysis patients. These systems will be installed and monitored to ensure cholarimines and other products are removed prior to dialysis.
Will there be an impact on my skin after bathing or showering?
No. There is no evidence of significant dermal absorption during these activities posing a risk.
Does bottled water have chloramine?
Normally it does not. Bottled water could contain chloramine if the company uses water supplied by Newell Regional Services Corporation as its water source.
Can pregnant women and children drink chloraminated water?
Yes. Everyone can drink water that contains chloramines.
Can you safely wash an open wound with chloraminated water?
Yes. It is safe to use chloraminated water in cleaning an open wound because virtually no water actually enters the bloodstream that way.
Why use Chloramines instead of Chlorine?
Chloramine is more chemically stable than chlorine and lasts longer in the local water distribution system than chlorine.
Should I stop drinking the water?
No, it is very important to maintain fluid intake of approximately 2 liters per day. Everyone can drink water that contains chloramines except those who are on dialysis.
Will chloramines affect your swimming pool?
No. You will still need free chlorine residual to retard algae and bacteria growths. Contact your local pool supply stores for specific information.
Do home water purifiers remove chloramines?
Most home purifiers are not designed to remove chloramines. Consult your manufacturer for specific information. NOTE: High quality granular activated carbon filters may remove chloramines provided sufficient contact time is permitted.
What are my options to reduce the Chloramines in my water?
If you want to reduce the amount of Chloramines in your water, a granular activated carbon filter or ascorbic acid are common substances to reduce Chloramine residuals.
If chloramine is such an effective disinfectant, why is it not used in every community?
While the public often considers all drinking water to be the same, the local raw water and water distribution conditions determine the best option for each particular community. Both chlorine and chloramine have their own advantages and disadvantages. Given sufficient contact time, chloramine is as effective as chlorine in destroying bacteria. While chlorine works more quickly, it does not last as long in the water as chloramine.
Does using chloramine increase the cost of water?
No. The cost of using chloramine is about the same as using chlorine.
Can you safely water plants, vegetables or fruit and trees?
Yes. The small amount of chloramines in the water supply will have no effect on plants of any type
If chloramines are harmful to fish, how can people safely drink the water?
Chloraminated water is no different than chlorinated water for all of the normal uses we have for potable water, including drinking. The digestive process neutralizes the chloramines before they reach the bloodstream. However, fish absorb chloramines directly into their bloodstreams through their gills, which can be fatal.
What special precautions should fish owners take?
Chloramines must be removed from any water to be used for fish tanks or ponds. Chloramines are toxic to saltwater and freshwater fish, reptiles that live in water, turtles and amphibians, and must be removed. This includes lobster tanks at grocery stores and restaurants as well as fish containers at bait shops.
You may not have had to remove chlorine from your aquarium water because it dissipates (evaporates) rapidly on its own. This is not the case with chloramines and specific steps must be taken for their removal.
Chloramines can be removed from the water by using a water conditioner specifically designed to remove chloramines or by using a granular activated carbon filter. Your pet supplier should be able to provide any further guidance you may need on these products.
Ammonia can be toxic to fish. Although all fish produce some ammonia as a natural by-product, ammonia is also released when chloramines are chemically removed. Some ammonia levels may be tolerable in individual tanks or ponds for short periods of time; however, commercial products are available at pet supply stores to remove excess ammonia. Biological filters, natural zeolites, and pH control methods are also effective in reducing the toxic effects of ammonia.
Where can I get more information?
You can get more information about Chloramines at the Health Canada website or contact Newell Regional Services Corporation.
For more information please visit these websites:
Chloramines in Drinking Water
Chloramines are one of the disinfectants used in drinking water. They are used to control bacterial growth and regrowth, taste and odour problems in drinking water. Chloramines help to deliver drinking water to you that is safe to drink, with the lowest possible levels of trihalomethanes (THMs).
For further health related information please see the following link to Alberta Health Services:
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