Chloramines are disinfectants used to treat tap water to make it safe fro drinking. They are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water. They also provide longer lasting disinfection as the as the water moves through pipes to the end customer. Chloramines have been used by water utilities since the 1930's. More than 20% of Americans uses drinking water treated with chloramines.
Many public water systems use chlorine as their secondary disinfectant. However, some public water systems changed their secondary disinfectant to chloramines to meet disinfection byproduct requirements. Since then, consumers have raised questions about this switch in disinfection and the long term health impact of chloramines.
Health Effects of Chloramines in Drinking Water
Chloramines do pose a risk for hemodialysis humans and fish. Chloramines easily enter the bloodstream through dialysis membranes and the gills of fish. Once in the blood stream, chloramines denature hemoglobin and cause hemolytic anemia.
Accidental use of chloramine treated water for dialysis has been responsible for a number of patients requiring transfusion to treat resultant hemolytic anemia, and was a possible factor in an increased mortality (death) rate among the dialysis center.
Chloramine patients during the 5 months after the chloramine exposure when compared to the 12 months before the chloramine exposure. Nitrosamines can be generated as byproducts from use of chloramines. They are strongly suspected of being human carcinogens. Nitrosamines can come in contact with most of organs in the body in addition to crossing the placenta. Effects such as cell damage and DNA mutations may occur and lead to cancer even at low levels of exposure.