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Chloramines in Australian Water Supply

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What are chloramines and what are they doing in our water supply?

Each state in Australia needs to supply clean and healthy drinking water to your tap. To do this it must comply with the guidelines set out by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The only way to get the water safely through the maze of pipes all the way to your house, which sometimes can take days, is to chlorinate the water with a mixture of either chlorine gas, powder or tablets; until recently chlorination has been the preferred choice in most States. Chlorine is a great sanitiser however it reacts with organic matter in the water and produces disinfection by- products (DBP’s) an example of which is Trihalomethanes (THMS) many of which are thought to be carcinogenic. Trihalomethanes with all the same halogen atoms are called haloforms. Another issue with using chlorine is that it dissipates; if you stand a bucket of water overnight the next day a lot of the chlorine will have dissipated. 

It is due to some of the reasons above that chloramines have been introduced to the water supply; it produces less THMs and is very hard to get out of the water once it is in there. So how is this magical chemical introduced? Ammonia is added to the water and monochloramine is formed. We now produce less THMs (not conclusive) and we have a more stable way of preventing water becoming contaminated on the way to your house, great news for the water authorities not great news for the consumer let me explain.

Chloramine or monochloramine is unfortunately not something that could be considered as harmless, so much so in fact that it is toxic to marine life, just ask the many keepers of tropical fish around Sydney what happened when chloramines were added to the water. Monochloramine reacts with copper, there are legal cases now in the USA where people are seeking compensation after their copper pipes became corroded after the introduction of chloramines. Erin Brockovich (think Julia Roberts) has become very vocal about this subject and has written a very interesting article about this, she states that “Chloramine is 200 times less effective than chlorine in killing e-coli bacteria, rotaviruses, and polio”.

Ordinary carbon filtration will not remove monochloramine or chloramines, please insist on a cartridge that is specifically designed to remove chloramines.
Another major issue with chloramines particularly when mixed with fluoride, is the leaching of lead from water pipes, there have been several high profile cases in Washington DC and North Carolina where elevated concentrations of lead were found after the introduction of chloramines, lead is a silent killer and our children are most at risk who consume a lot more water than adults based on their body mass. 

Several top filtration manufacturers such as Pentek and Omnipure have added catalytic extruded carbon to their cartridges which will remove chloramines! The Omnipure OMB 934 ml/w chloramines cartridge removes lead and chloramines along with THMs and chlorine. 
What this all means for you as a consumer of water and more particularly your children is that you might just want to think about either installing a water filter that is capable of removing chloramines and lead or if you already have a system replace your cartridges with one that is certified to remove chloramines and lead. Please do not be fooled by people trying to sell you inferior products ask for the specification sheet, you need to know what contaminants it removes from the water, how much of the contaminant it removes for example is it 60%, 95% and how long will it carry on being effective for 1000 Litres 2500 Litres? I hope you get the message insist on getting a specification sheet with your cartridge, if it doesn’t have one why not?