Town Square

Post a New Topic

Editorial: It is time to test chloramine

Original post made on Oct 6, 2007

Amid the recent turmoil over dangerous chemicals in our food and toys, it's amazing to observe the federal government's somewhat lackadaisical reaction to concerns over chloramine, the chemical additive used to treat our tap water.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (15)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gregory
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 10:07 am

Dear Almanac,

Thanks for the powerful editorial on chloramine. I have family members who are severely affected with rashes, respiratory and digestive symptoms from chloraminated tap water. Doctors cannot find any treatment that works. The only solution is to completely avoid the tap water. This means we cannot drink, cook, bathe or shower in, brush our teeth with or even do our laundry in our tap water (because clothes washed in chloraminated water make the skin itch). Bottled spring water is used for everything and we even have to travel out of town for showers and to do laundry. This is very expensive, time consuming and inconvient. But it is better than watching loved ones health deteriorate from continued exposure to chloramine. Many other people are severly affected as well. It is unbelievable that this disinfectant was not properly tested before its use. Furthermore, now that there is mounting evidence that there is a real problem and many people are suffering, there is no excuse for the do-nothing attitude of public agencies like our health departments and the EPA. Thank you for covering this urgent and important issue. Anyone who wants to find out more can see www.chloramine.org.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheRestOfTheStory
a resident of another community
on Oct 6, 2007 at 10:59 am

Oh, and while you on that website, you might want to check out the long list of environmental, medical/public health and consumer groups that believe that this is a real problem - oops, my bad - there are NONE!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Darlene Nappi
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2007 at 11:01 am

Your Editorial, "It is time to test chloramine" is so right on. Those of us who are affected by chloramine in our tap water know what happens if we use chloraminated water.

I have severe digestive tract problems. My symptoms: 1)extreme belly bloat 2)complete loss of energy 3)diarrhea 4)excruciating pain.

These digestive problems started shortly after chloramine was added to the Hetch Hetchy water supply where we live in Sunnyvale. After thorough testing and research through March 2006, my doctors found no cause for my above symptoms. In April 2006, I was doubling over with pain every time I drank tap water. I decided to try BOTTLED SPRING WATER. With the very first glass I drank I HAD NO PAIN.

I noticed in late 2006 that I had pain and bloating if I ate out, used certain canned or processed foods and in early 2007 even a medication. I discovered I was ingesting chloramine, not only by how my body was reacting but also, by calling the companies who manufactured the products and then cities where the products were processed to ask about the disinfectant they used. All but two products contained chloraminated water. After I eliminated my exposure to chloramine in my food and medication I recovered from all but the belly bloat, which is improving slowly.

I am so grateful for the coverage the Mountain View Voice has biven to chloramine - MOST OF ALL, your forthright opinion and tor calling our governmental agencies to task for allowing such negligence and irresponsibility regarding this entire issue.

AND, THANK YOU, The Almanac New for printing this editorial in your paper also.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2007 at 11:36 am

Thank you for printing the Mountain View Voice editorial about the building concern over serious health problems caused by chloramine. The EPA's assertion that chloramine has been safely used for many years in other parts of the country is a 'spin' on the facts that: 1. chloramine has previously been used in much smaller dosages and 2.when dosage levels were raised high enough to be an effective disinfectant and people complained, they were all told that their symptoms couldn't possibly be caused by chloramine and that no one else had complained. I have heard this from many peole all accross the US and from Scotland. When people find the website, www.chloramine.org, they are relieved to find they are not alone.

As more and more evidence comes out against chloramine,(direct, immediate health effects, disintegration of plumbing, and long term effects from the newly discovered disinfection by products) why does the EPA and CDC think it is OK for us to continue to be exposed to chloramine? Please write to your Federal Congressperson and Senators Boxer and Feinstein to look into the situation and maked the EPA stop stonewalling and correct their mistake.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Renee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 8, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Thank you for this information. It is no wonder so many of us are buying bottled water, we just don't trust our tap water any more, I know I don't. I would love to contribute less to my carbon footprint, and if the SFPUC and all these other agencies would do their jobs and protect the public, ya know the job we pay them for, I could be the enviromentalist I want to be. Enough of all these people trying to get us to drink this crap, get it!!! We just don't like the way it tastes and we just don't trust it because it's completely untested in a professional scientific way as a water disinfectant. I take spring water with me everywhere. When we go out to dinner and make reservations, I ask if they serve bottled water, if they say "no", we don't go, or I bring my own if we are with friends. I won't cook with tap water it either. I am to afraid that this is going to be the worst mistake the SFPUC has ever made, and that's the biggest reason they are refusing to test. Or they'll let the testing happen under a different administration. I just hope it happens soon cause I'm thirsty!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ellen Powell
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Dear Almanac News,

First of all, THANK YOU for this wonderful editorial! It speaks truth and has a spine! Kudos to you!

I am very happy to report that Virginia Tech professor Dr. Marc Edwards has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a major award that also comes with an unconditional $500,000 prize. Although this money is given unconditionally, Dr. Edwards plans to plow it into his extremely important research, some of it on the problem of corrosion of chloramine leaching lead into tap water.

Dr. Edwards was the whistle blower in Washington, DC on the hugely elevated levels of lead in the tap water due to a switch from chlorine to chloramine as a water disinfectant. The switch to chloramine was in 2000 and Dr. Edwards blew the whistle to the press in 2004, after having tried unsuccessfully to get the utilities, the local health department, and the EPA to do something about it. The EPA made a large effort to discredit his work. To learn more about that, listen to his May 4, 2006 Princeton University lecture entitled "Imminent Endangerment: 'Lead' Astray by the EPA".

Web Link

It's about the 38th one down the page.

The EPA's "action level" for lead is 15 parts per billion (ppb) and the World Health Organization's is 10ppb. Because of Edwards' courageous whistle blowing, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), an international nonprofit scientific society dedicated to the improvement of drinking water quality, reported that samples of Washington water collected after flushing were as high as 48,000 parts per billion (ppb). After switching to chloraminated water, children in Washington ingested more than 60 times the EPA's maximum level of lead with one glass of water.

We have Dr. Edwards to thank for bringing that to light. Thank you, Dr. Edwards! Looking forward to what your continued research on chloramine brings to light.

This lead issue is just but one of many nightmarish facets of the chloramine debacle.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ellen Powell
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 8, 2007 at 8:08 pm

Dear Almanac News,

First of all, THANK YOU for this wonderful editorial! It speaks truth and has a spine! Kudos to you!

I am very happy to report that Virginia Tech professor Dr. Marc Edwards has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a major award that also comes with an unconditional $500,000 prize. Although this money is given unconditionally, Dr. Edwards plans to plow it into his extremely important research, some of it on the problem of corrosion of chloramine leaching lead into tap water.

Dr. Edwards was the whistle blower in Washington, DC on the hugely elevated levels of lead in the tap water due to a switch from chlorine to chloramine as a water disinfectant. The switch to chloramine was in 2000 and Dr. Edwards blew the whistle to the press in 2004, after having tried unsuccessfully to get the utilities, the local health department, and the EPA to do something about it. The EPA made a large effort to discredit his work. To learn more about that, listen to his May 4, 2006 Princeton University lecture entitled "Imminent Endangerment: 'Lead' Astray by the EPA".

Web Link

It's about the 38th one down the page.

The EPA's "action level" for lead is 15 parts per billion (ppb) and the World Health Organization's is 10ppb. Because of Edwards' courageous whistle blowing, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), an international nonprofit scientific society dedicated to the improvement of drinking water quality, reported that samples of Washington water collected after flushing were as high as 48,000 parts per billion (ppb). After switching to chloraminated water, children in Washington ingested more than 60 times the EPA's maximum level of lead with one glass of water.

We have Dr. Edwards to thank for bringing that to light. Thank you, Dr. Edwards! Looking forward to what your continued research on chloramine brings to light.

This lead issue is just but one of many nightmarish facets of the chloramine debacle.

P.S. I live in Vermont but this website forces me to pick a town listed in the drop-down window in order to get this posted. Picking other" or "another community" doesn't work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Lead is a neurotoxin - it affects the nervous system. It neither causes skin rashes nor respiratory problems, which are the claims of the anti-chloramine group.

Furthermore, the lead concern in Washington, DC is because many of the pipes there are lead-based and the water system there was also improperly run. It is a localized situation, one that can't (and shouldn't) be extended to other places automatically. For more info, see the report "Cloramine Q and A: Plumbing" located at the bottom of this page from the SF PUC:
Web Link

Folks should also look at the report "Cloramine Q and A: Human Physiological Impacts" available on that webpage as well.

Bottom Line: The Almanac Editorial is based on listening to only one side of the story. The other side tells a much different story. We have enough problems in the world already - chloramine isn't one of them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:31 pm

"Paul Harvey" (not your real name, I assume),

Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC) claims that chloramine in drinking water causes dermal, respiratory, and/or gastrointestinal problems in some people. But if you're not one of those people, you might feel entitled to be skeptical and/or unconcerned. CCAC also claims that chloramine in drinking water can elevate lead levels in some drinking water distribution systems. Specifically, it can elevate lead levels in homes that have lead pipes, lead-containing solder, or lead-containing brass components (faucets, water meters, etc.), especially in the case that the presence of a dissimilar metal, such as iron in iron pipes, induces galvanic corrosion.

If WASA (Washington DC's Water and Sewer Authority) was "improperly run" -- and I'm not saying it wasn't -- it was improperly run by the Federal EPA! Sure, the presence of lead pipes was and is a big problem, but according to Marc Edwards' Congressional testimony
Web Link
switching the residual disinfectant from chlorine to chloramine made the problem much worse.

Edwards also discovered that chloramine elevated lead levels in Greenville, NC; they didn't have lead pipes but did have lead-based solder.
<Web Link;

California passed laws in 1985, 1997, and 2006 which limited the use of lead in the construction of plumbing systems, but didn't require any changes to existing construction, so older facilities are still at risk.

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has set the public health goal (PHG) for lead in drinking water at 2 ppb. They cite a number of toxicological effects in humans, including neurobehavioral effects, anemia, hypertensive effects, kidney effects, reproductive effects, and cancer.
Web Link

EPA's "action level" for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb. This means that drinking water providers don't have to notify customers about lead levels as long as they're less than 15 ppb. But unless lead levels under 2 ppb, providers probably shouldn't feel that there's no room for improvement.

Over the years, the Mountain View Voice (which first published the editorial) has looked at the chloramine issue from all sides. In the beginning, they were skeptical too, but they got over it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Jeff,

You're doing a "bait-and-switch" here: Your group's claims are all about rashes and respiratory problems, but you can't prove it, so when you see something else come up (lead concerns in two isolated cases), you latch onto that as a means to try to achieve your ends.

It's apples and oranges - and in the case of the "apples" (lead concerns), it turns out they ARE isolated (extreme) cases - again, I'll refer folks (including the MV Voice) to the report "Cloramine Q and A: Plumbing" located at the bottom of this page from the SF PUC:

Web Link




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Paul, If you are interested in what CCAC actually has to say about chloramine see "www.chloramine org". CCAC has identified three separate areas of concern with the use of chloramine for water disinfection. They are: 1) The health effects of chloramine itself and of the disinfection by products it creates, 2) The damage to the environment caused by broken water mains, etc. and 3) The damage to plumbing from chloramine's corrosivity, including the aggressive ability it has to leach lead into driking water. I will start with the lead issue first, as you did in your original comment. High lead levels in drinking water are probably under reported due to the typical sampling protocols used when testing is done. This was well documented in Dr. Marc Edwards' work. His research also showed that lead levels in water varied greatly from one home or building to another and even from one room to another in the same home. This is because of the particular varieties and combinations of pipe materials, solder and other plumbing fixtures used at each location. Sampling for lead is only done at a small number of locations in a given city. This is simply a hit or miss situation. To know if you may be exposed to high levels of lead in your household's drinking water, you must test the water from every spigot. In case you believe there are no problems with lead here on the Hetch Hetchy water system, let me refer you to a news report from the Los Altos Town Crier from Feb. 28/07. After the addition of chloramine in 2004, the first test for lead in the drinking water (three years later) in Los Altos Hills, showed unsafe levels of lead. There is also an interesting study that was done in San Francisco in 2003-2004 on Legionella, that happened to track lead levels as well. After the switch to chloramine in Feb. 2004 the lead levels in the water samples that were taken as part of that study went up 65%-70%. This study was given to NBC 11 for their news spot entitled "Is Your Tap Water Toxic?". It can be found on our website. Next, I wish to address the issue of the health effects. You state that those of us who suffer from the skin, respiratory and digestive effects from chloramine in our water cannot prove it. I have a letter from my doctor stating that I have "chloramine mediated respiratory toxicity". He determined this by demonstration of cause and effect and a complete medical evaluation that showed that my condition was consistent with what chloramine is known to do at higher exposure levels. Most people's doctors are not trained in research like mine and they are unable to connect an individual's symptoms to chloramine as there are no skin, respiratory or digestive studies on chloraminated water. Most doctors as well as their patients have never even heard of chloramine. However, CCAC hopes to change this. We have hundreds of people who have demonstrated cause and effect between their symptoms and chloraminated water. Many of them are willing and able to participate in a controlled study of this cause and effect. If only our public agencies would stop wasting time and money justifying their actions and do a proper investigation of this issue! I also want to state for the record that the burden of proof of harm should never rest on the shoulders of the suffering public. The proper studies should have been done before chloramine was approved for use in public water supplies. On the issue of environmental harm from chloramine see www.chloramine.org. Finally I wish to thank the Mountain View Voice for their hard work and their courageous stand!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Denise:

C'mon, your group was founded based on belief that these rashes and respiratory problems are due to chloramine in the water - the "effects on the environment" and lead issues are just add-on items.

And in regards to those two:

1) Effects on the environment: Yes, chlormaine can kill fish - it's a known problem - and people were made widely aware of it in advance of the changeover (particularly aquarium owners).
So, yes, if a LARGE water main breaks and feeds water into a SMALL creek - as occurred in Berkeley - yes, a fish kill can occur, but c'mon - 30 small "Sucker Fish" died. Not exactly the Exxon Valdez here.

2) Lead problem: Following your links, what did I discover? That Washington, DC took chloramine out of the water and replaced it with chlorine? Why no! They STILL use chloramine - they just started adding something else to control the corrosivity problem that caused the lead to leach out - and their test results have shown it to be successful!

And as to these health effects, can you tell me why, if chloramine is used in one-third of the country, why are the only significant problem areas here in the Bay Area and somewhere in Vermont??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Paul, Obviously, CCAC's main concern is the health of people. Both the short-term and the long-term health effects can be serious. (I'm sorry you don't care about this problem.) That said, CCAC can still care about plumbing damage, lead, and environmental damage. Your point seems empty. About your other comments. 1) Water main breaks occurred so frequently in creek areas in Berkely that fish and frog populations were regularly wiped out. Because of this, local residents formed the Urban Creeks Council and took on their water utility, EBMUD. CCAC was invited to attend the meetings between the Urban Creeks Council and EBMUD on the chronic problem of habitat distruction. EBMUD treated main breaks by using sodium thiosulfate to dechlorinate the water as it ran down the storm drains and into the creeks. If they got to the main break in time and properly applied treatment (which was not happening often), the fish might be saved. The frogs however, were not. Frogs disappeared from those creek areas after EBMUD switched over to chloramine in 1998 and never returned. Long time residents who used to enjoy hearing the frogs in those creeks sing all night, told me how sad it was that they were now silent. Frogs are an early warning signal for toxins. Are we listening? 2) Washington D.C. took the cheap and easy way out using corrosion inhibiting chemicals in the water along with the chloramine. This did not entirely fix the problem. They also provided filters for drinking water in homes with lead service lines. However, Dr. Marc Edwards' research showed that the homes and buildings with the worst lead problems were not those with lead service lines. The highest levels of lead in drinking water were found in places where there was a combination of metals in plumbing components. No one knows if the lead problem in D.C. is or ever will be fixed. As Dr. Edwards also documented, the lead testing protocols used are not showing the true picture. Finally, CCAC is the first organization to have identified the health problems associated with chloraminated water. Our website was only created a little over a year ago. Since then 20 states have contacted CCAC with the same health effects from chloramine in their water. The word is just starting to get out. More people contact us every day and the numbers are growing. Groups are forming in several states now. As Mr. Adam Werbach said on 11/14/06, the people the SFPUC was hearing from represent "the cutting edge of the cutting edge". He expects that this will become a bigger topic across the country in the future. He is right!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:26 pm

You folks have learned well from the anti-fluoride crusaders - always have an "answer" for everything, whether dubious or not, it doesn't matter, you just need one.

Bottom Line: You've convinced the editor of a small town weekly paper, but have failed to convince even one environmental, public health, or consumer protection public interest group out there as to the validity of your main claim of human health effects - much less any governmental agency. That speaks volumes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gregory
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 9:27 am

Mr. Harvey,

Congratulations Mr. Harvey you are finally right about something! CCAC has answers, correct answers, due to their diligent research on the matter of chloramine. You, on the other hand, have no answers of substance. Strange, that you seem to spend a lot of time and energy on a subject you claim not to care about.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 2,170 views

One night only: ‘Occupy the Farm’ screening in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,077 views

What Are Menlo Park’s Priorities?
By Erin Glanville | 37 comments | 1,480 views

Water Torture
By Paul Bendix | 1 comment | 466 views

Are you considering a remodel?
By Stuart Soffer | 0 comments | 72 views