Fact vs. Fiction

With a 100-year track record as a safe, effective disinfectant, chloramine is widely used by municipally run and privately owned water systems across the United States. Unfortunately, misinformation on the Internet and from other sources has created unnecessary confusion. Below are responses to commonly asked questions about chloramine.

Why does New Jersey American Water use chloramine for the disinfection process?

To comply with new, stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, New Jersey American Water needed to transition the water treatment disinfection practice at several of its facilities from chlorine to chloramine. We made the change to reduce the levels of disinfection byproducts that EPA has found to have known health risks. These byproducts are potentially harmful contaminants that form when chlorine reacts with organic compounds naturally present in our surface water sources of supply during the normal water purification process.

Compared to chlorine, chloramine produces substantially lower concentrations of the disinfection byproducts that the EPA regulates in drinking water. The new federal regulations are in effect, and we took a proactive approach to ensure that our water meets all public health standards.

Where does New Jersey American Water use chloramines to disinfect treated water?

  • Raritan System: New Jersey American Water brings over 30 years of experience using chloramine to treat water in its Raritan System, which serves customers in Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex and Union Counties. 
  • Coastal System: New Jersey American Water has been treating water with choramines at its Jumping Brook Water Treatment Plant in Neptune and its Swimming River Water Treatment Plant in Colts Neck since June 2012 for customers in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, EXCEPT for customers in Howell Township, Lakewood, Freehold Township and Farmingdale ( Note: there are a handful of customers who receive chloraminated water in Farmingdale ). 

How does the transition to chloramines affect our drinking water?

People use chloraminated water in all the same ways for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning and watering lawns and gardens. The only change that customers might notice is a reduced taste and odor of chlorine. If you prefer, products are available that reduce or remove chloramine, such as home treatment systems and water filters, which often contain certifications describing their effectiveness. We recommend that you visit the National Sanitation Foundation’s (NSF) Web site , where NSF provides information on in-home filters that remove chloramine and chlorine.

Please note that two groups of customers need to take special precautions: kidney dialysis patients and fish owners. For more information, visit Precautions for Dialysis Patients and Fish Owners.

How can we be sure that chloramination is safe?

For nearly 100 years, water systems across the United States and Canada have used chloramine without any ill effects. Every day, one in five Americans receive drinking water treated with chloramine, including residents in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Indianapolis, Denver and Miami. Please note that two groups of customers need to take special precautions: kidney dialysis patients and fish owners. For more information, visit Precautions for Dialysis Patients and Fish Owners. In addition, New Jersey American Water brings over 30 years of experience using chloramine to treat water in its Raritan System, which serves customers in Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex and Union Counties.

What precautions do kidney dialysis patients need to take? 

In the dialysis process, water comes in direct contact with the bloodstream. Just like chlorine, the presence of chloramine in dialysis water would be harmful and it must be removed.  Dialysis systems already pre-treat their source water to remove chlorine and many of the pre-treament systems will also remove chloramines. To be certain that modifications aren’t necessary to remove chloramines, dialysis patients should consult with their dialysis provider or health care practitioner. Consult your physician if you have any questions.

Can dialysis patients drink chloraminated water?   

Yes. Chloraminated water can be consumed because the digestive process neutralizes the chloramine before it reaches the bloodstream. Kidney dialysis patients can drink, cook and bathe in water treated with chloramine. Please consult your physician if you have any questions.

How are fish affected by chloramines and what precautions should fish owners take?

Like chlorine, chloramines are toxic at low levels and must be removed from the water to be used for aquatic life, because they can come into direct contact with their bloodstream. Therefore, chloramines should be removed from water used in aquariums, fish tanks and ponds. Individuals or businesses that keep fish or other animals in tanks, aquariums, or ponds should ask a pet supply company about removing chloramines. Customers who use drinking water for aquaculture purposes (growing plants in water tanks or ponds) should get expert advice regarding the need and procedures to neutralize or remove chloramines. Also, restaurants and grocery stores with lobster tanks must take special precautions to treat the water.

Is chloraminated water safe for my pets?

Chloramine is safe for all mammals – including dogs and cats -- as well as birds and most reptiles. Please consult your veterinarian or local pet store for more information.

Does chloramine increase the chance of lead poisoning due to leaching from household plumbing?

No. Proper corrosion control is always the key to reducing the risk of lead leaching, and New Jersey American Water has extensive experience in this field. In fact, when the Washington D.C. water system had issues with lead and a lack of proper corrosion control with chlorine – before it made the transition to chloramine, the EPA called our parent company, American Water, to help resolve the issue. Our environmental experts assisted Washington D.C. officials in developing the solution – a phosphate-based corrosion inhibitor.

New Jersey American Water practices corrosion control at all of its water treatment facilities, and is in compliance at all systems with the Federal and State Lead and Copper regulation.

Should I be concerned about washing open wounds with chloraminated water?

No. Water disinfected with chloramine is no different than using chlorinated water to cleanse a wound. Virtually no water comes into direct contact with the bloodstream, so there is no harm.

Will chloramination affect business water users?

Businesses and other establishments that use municipal drinking water for commercial laundering, laboratory procedures, and other processes that require carefully controlled water characteristics should get advice from equipment manufacturers or other suppliers regarding any changes that may be needed. These types of businesses may include laboratories, microchip manufacturers, biotech companies, soft drink bottlers, photography labs and restaurants or seafood suppliers with fish tanks.

Will chloramine adversely affect my swimming pool?

You should continue to treat your pool according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Test kits available at your local pool supply store can be used to measure the disinfectant concentration in the pool water. Contact your local pool supply store for additional details.

When it comes to gardening, will chloraminated water harm ornamental plants, vegetables, trees or shrubs?

No. The low levels of disinfectant in the water should not have any effect on plant life. The bacteria that contribute to plant growth live within the soil and are generally protected from chloramine concentrations by the soil layer. Soil will reduce or remove the disinfectant, thereby reducing its levels in the water that reach the plants.

What the Experts Say About Chloramine

Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, Associate Professor of Public Health, Medicine, Nutrition and Engineering, Tufts University School of Medicine “The reports of adverse health effects of chloramine are both anecdotal, and at times biologically implausible. There continues to be confusion amongst some individuals as to the effects of monochloramine versus more complex chloramines, such as di-chloramine and tri-chloramine and other chemical species. However, no creditable evidence that chloramine (monochloramine), as used as a water disinfectant at recommended concentrations, has surfaced. Investigations by the Centers for Disease Control have not yielded any evidence of such adverse effects. In addition, no peer-reviewed papers or journal articles have been published in the scientific literature that would support the thesis that drinking water disinfection with chloramine has adverse health effects for humans."

Mark Hartle, Chief Aquatic Resources Section, Division of Environmental Services, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission “Both free chlorine and chloramines are quite toxic to aquatic life. Consequently, both compounds are used effectively as disinfectants. Chlorine is toxic to many aquatic organisms at concentrations less than 1 part per million, and we find that slightly higher chloramine concentrations are necessary to produce the same level of toxicity.”

Jeff Hines, President and CEO, York Water Company "The York Water Company has been using chloramines since 1942. I have been with the company for 20 years and have never received any complaints related to chloramine. In fact, the only calls we get are from people who actually say the water tastes good, because they can't smell the chlorine."

Bernard Brunwasser, Water Commissioner, City of Philadelphia Water Department "Philadelphia made the switch from chlorine to chloramine over 30 years ago, because it is less corrosive, less odorous and more persistent through the 3,000 miles of Philadelphia's underground piping network and the plumbing of our customers' homes, thus protecting the water all the way to the tap."

Questions?

If you have a question that is not listed here, please send it to us via the Chloramine Question Form, or call our customer service center at 1-800-272-1325. Call center hours are M-F, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For emergencies: We're available 24/7.