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Chlorine, Cloramines, VOC’s and Trihalomethanes; a ‘Dummy’s Guide’.

When I get thrown technical terms by salespeople, I often wonder if they aren’t doing it on purpose to impress, or even to make me hand over my power to them to make my decision for me because they seem to know more than me.  For this reason I want to help people confused about the terms above.


Is a reactive and toxic gas that sterilises water by killing organisms. It has a distinctive sharp smell (think: swimming pools). Chlorine acts by stealing electrons from things it comes into contact with. In other words, it oxidizes things.
Chlorine is forced into our water at the treatment works. It is held in the water because it is in a  ‘closed system’ and when poured into a glass from your tap, it begins to leave the water. So buying a jug to remove chlorine is a bit of a laugh because as soon as you pour water into any jug, the chlorine begins to leave. Overnight in the fridge and your open  jug of water will be chlorine free. Chlorine poses greater problems in your shower where it is forcibly released from the hot shower water and turns your                                                    shower stall into a gas chamber of the same gas used in Nazi concentration camps. Chlorine is a known carcinogen.

2Chloramine (NH2Cl)

AKA Monochloramine. Commonly used  as a secondary disinfectant in municipal water distribution systems as an alternative to chlorination. This application is increasing and I recommend you ask your local water supplier what they are using, as big box store bought water filters are basic granular carbon and have no ability to neutralise chloramines.

Chlorine (referred to in water treatment as free chlorine) is being displaced by Chloramines — to be specific monochloramines—which are much more stable and does not dissipate as rapidly as free chlorine. Monochloramine is an inorganic compound, and not very volatile (when dissolved in water it forms more or less of an azeotrope, evaporating slightly faster than the water itself). It also has a very much lower, however still present, tendency than free chlorine, to convert organic materials into chlorocarbons such as chloroform and carbon tetrachloride.

It’s not a volatile organic compound. However, the way it does its job as a disinfectant is to basically ‘shred’ organic compounds, like cell walls, key enzymes, etc, forming “organic chloramines” where one or more of the remaining hydrogens is replaced with an organic functional group. These now-organic compounds have a higher vapor pressure, so by design, chloramine is used to create VOCs (see below #3) . The reason behind its use in tap water or pool/spa chlorination, is to allow the organic chloramines to boil off and disperse in the air, leaving clean water behind. That “chlorine smell” of a chlorinated pool is actually mostly organic chloramines evaporating out. In a more enclosed space like an interior room, these compounds can’t disperse and so the smell builds. Such compounds have been identified as carcinogens and in 1979 the United States Environmental Protection Agency began regulating their levels in U.S. drinking water.

Some of these unregulated and unscreened byproducts may possibly pose greater health risks than the regulated chemicals.

Adding chloramines to the water supply may increase exposure to lead in drinking water, especially in areas with older housing; this exposure can result in increased lead                                               levels in the bloodstream, which may pose a significant health risk.

Chloramine can only be neutralised by reverse osmosis water filters or filters like the UltraStream that use a superior form of carbon known as catalytic carbon.



3Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)

VOCS are the result of chlorine reacting with organic matter. So if your drinking water has some organic matter in it, you will have VOC’s, which have been found to be genotoxic, meaning they can cause mutation in our DNA that potentially lead to cancer.



THMs are also environmental pollutants, and many are considered carcinogenic. Trihalomethanes are a by-product predominantly when chlorine is used to disinfect water for drinking. They represent one group of chemicals generally referred to as disinfection by-products.
They result from the reaction of chlorine with organic matter present in the water being treated.

The THMs produced have been associated through epidemiological studies with some adverse health effects. Many governments set limits on the amount permissible in drinking water.

Unfortunately for we poor old consumers, trihalomethanes are only one group of many hundreds of possible disinfection by-products—the vast majority of which are not monitored—and it has not yet been clearly demonstrated which of these are the most plausible candidate for causation of these health effects. In the United States, the EPA limits the total concentration of the four chief constituents (chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and dibromochloromethane), referred to as total trihalomethanes (TTHM), to 80 parts per billion in treated water.

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