Did you know that the "chlorine" smell in your pool is not from the chlorine you dose it with but from compounds that build up formed when the ammonia in sweat, urine, mucus, saliva and insects etc reacts with chlorine.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US confirm that "dichloramine and trichloramine are chloramine compounds sometimes found in and around indoor swimming pools, which cause skin, eye, and respiratory problems". Makes sense, but why does the drinking water coming out of our taps sometimes have that smell too?
Well, there is another chloramine, called monochloramine, and various South African water authorities are using it to treat our water as it has a much better lifespan than chlorine has in large reticulation systems. Some municipalities use it intermittently when they have problems with chlorine-resistant bacteria.
So what is the difference between chlorine and chloramines - they're both chemicals, aren't they? And it's important to treat our water to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases, isn't it?
True, and both chlorine and chloramines have been used to treat water since the first quarter of the last century. But chlorine dissipates over time. When you have to move water over vast distances in hot temperatures, like those we experience in South Africa, the chlorine can evaporate before the water reaches the last house on the line. Adding higher percentages of chlorine is not a solution, as this would adversely affect those at the front of the queue (who the water reaches first), and anyway, it is cost prohibitive.
As a result, treatment plants facing this challenge looked for another option. What they found is that a combination of chlorine and ammonia is effective for much longer than chlorine on its own. It also means that lower levels of chlorine are needed to have the same effect, even for houses at the end of the pipeline. As a result, chloramines are now being used around the world, especially in hot climates, as an alternative to huge doses of chlorine in the treatment of water.
But it comes at a cost.
It goes without saying that we should be removing all harmful chemicals from our water when it reaches our homes, and before our families consume it. It's pretty easy to remove or reduce levels of chlorine in drinking water by using good home and work-place water filters. But it is far more difficult to remove chloramine compounds. It is first necessary to separate the two chemicals, and few water filters can do this.
"Where absolute removal of chlorine is required, normal filtration will not suffice if chloramine is present," confirms H2O International franchisee, Johan Taute. He raises another concern: "This is a serious problem for those who know the importance of drinking contaminate-free water; and that includes those on dialysis treatment, where the complete removal of chloramine is essential."
So what can we do? Summer's here, and we want the purest water we can get to quench our thirst, but summer is also the time when chloramines are most likely to be present in our drinking water. Tony Marchesini, MD of H2O International, advises consumers looking to buy a water purifier to first contact the experts and to make sure that they get the right purifier for their needs and the composition of the water in their area.
“Give your local H2O franchise a ring. We regularly test water for our clients, so we understand which water contaminants are found in specific parts of the country and are well-placed to recommend a suitable water purifier.”
And if there are chloramines in your water, what then? Are there filters on the market that can remove them? And what about areas that use chloramines only intermittently - would consumers then need a filter that can remove both chlorine and chloramines?
The answer is yes-but and yes again. Standard carbon filters (ie the majority of water purifiers) remove only a fraction of chloramines. Marchesini says this is why H2O International has reformulated its proprietary media bed, creating a unique and advanced household purifier that is effective in removing both chlorine and chloramines. “The H2O International range now includes the Chlora+ ‘dual purpose’ water purifier that is able to extract the chlorine as well as the difficult-to-remove chloramines from your water,” Marchesini confirms.