While most people talk about chlorine in tap water, lots of municipalities use an alternative disinfectant called chloramine. This video goes over the advantages and disadvantages of both disinfectants, why municipalities are switching to chloramine, and what this means for your water filter. Chlori
While most people talk about chlorine in tap water, lots of municipalities use an alternative disinfectant called chloramine. This video goes over the advantages and disadvantages of both disinfectants, why municipalities are switching to chloramine, and what this means for your water filter.
Chlorine was the original disinfectant used in US municipalities, with Jersey City being the first city to implement a chlorine-based system in 1908. Still today, chlorine remains the primary disinfectant in the majority of municipalities in the US, because of its effectiveness and low cost. But there are two major downsides to using chlorine as a disinfectant.
One: Chlorine is volatile and can escape from tap water as it travels through water mains, which can eliminate the "chlorine residual." Without residual chlorine, water becomes more susceptible to microbial growth.
Two: Chlorine can react with naturally-occurring organic compounds, creating what are known as disinfection by-products (DBPs) which are associated with kidney and liver problems.
Chloramine has gained popularity with a number of municipalities, (including Water Nerd TV's home of Washington, DC). That's because it directly addresses the two major problems with chlorine-based disinfection.
Chloramine is less volatile than chlorine, so it stays in the water longer than chlorine. This ensures all areas of the water distribution network are properly disinfected.
As the EPA began to learn about the toxicity of DBPs, they began searching for an alternative disinfectant for chlorine. Chloramine is less reactive with naturally-occurring organic matter, so it produces lesser amounts of DBPs.
Despite these advantages, chloramine isn't without its own shortcomings. For example, when a municipality switches over to a chloramine-based system to comply with DBP regulations, the level of pipe corrosion inhibitor needs to be increased, because chloramine-treated water is more corrosive than chlorine-treated water. Washington, DC did not properly do this when they switched over to a chloramine-based disinfection system in the early 2000s, and the city underwent a 5-year lead contamination crisis where more than 42,000 children under the age of 2 were exposed to high levels of lead, putting them under great health risk.
Even when pipe corrosion is properly accounted for, chloramine must be removed from the water when it is being used for dialysis, aquariums, baking, and even craft brewing (maybe you didn't burn your mash after all!).
While chlorine and chloramine are not considered to be harmful, they are primarily responsible for tap water's bad taste and smell.
Chlorine is very easy to remove from tap water. If you fill a water jug and leave it in your fridge uncapped, within a day or two, the chlorine will volatilize and go away. Common Brita pitchers, refrigerator filters, and under sink filtration systems are also good ways to remove the chlorine taste from your water.
Chloramine, on the other hand is much harder to filter, and most big-name water filters are not designed to remove it. A special type of activated carbon, called catalytic carbon, is the best tool for the job. High quality water filters that use catalytic carbon in their filter formulation also offer broad protection against other contaminants in drinking water.
The bottom line is water is not one-size-fits-all -- if your water uses chloramine, it needs to be treated by your filter differently than if it uses chlorine. If you're curious about which your city is using, and want to learn more about the complexities of your water, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature to talk to one of our Washington DC based water nerds.
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