The Health Risks Of Chloramine

Most water supply companies nationwide are switching to chloramine instead of chlorine for water disinfection. What are the effects of it on humans and pets?

Chloramine is a chemical compound made by reacting ammonia with the active ingredient in chlorine bleach. Although it is a weaker germicide than chlorine, it is more stable, which is why water systems are making more use of it.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, chloramine provides better protection against bacterial regrowth in water systems with large storage tanks and dead-end water mains. The EPA says that like chlorine, chloramine effectively controls biofilm, a slime formed by bacterial growth that coats and corrodes pipes and can harbor dangerous concentrations of coliform bacteria. Because chloramine tends not to react with organic compounds in water, consumers may have fewer complaints about the chemical taste and odor of treated water.

Like chlorine, however, chloramine is toxic. The EPA states that neither poses health concerns to humans at the levels used for drinking water disinfection, but even at those levels, both can harm fish and amphibians. Chlorine produces by-products that contribute to cancer and birth defects and, in itself, may contribute to heart disease, but at least it dissipates rapidly when water is boiled or left standing and exposed to air. Chloramine does not. So, if you have an aquarium and your water is disinfected with chloramines, you’ll have to treat it with a dechlorinator, available at pet shops, to prevent the water from killing your fish, and think about whether you want to drink water that can kill marine animals.

Research published in 2007 by Dr. Michael Plewa indicated that the disinfection byproducts (DBPs) created from the use of chloramine are much more toxic than the DBPs of chlorine. These new nitrogen-containing DBPs are not regulated by the EPA. Yet, this chemical is now in the water in many US municipalities.


There are widespread reports of health problems from chloramines. It is suggested that anyone with chemical sensitivities will react badly to chloramines. The EPA reports there have been no studies done to determine the risks to epidermis, respiratory, digestive or epidemiologic systems of chloramine in water supplies, and that there are inadequate cancer studies on animals or humans. There also appear to be no allergy tests. But those individuals with extreme rashes, breathing and liver problems know the answer already.