Chloramine is not considered to be a carcinogen, which is a substance that has the potential to cause cancer. In fact, chloramine is commonly used in drinking water as a disinfectant to kill harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause illness.
While chloramine has been shown to have some potential health effects at very high levels, it is generally considered safe to drink water that contains levels of chloramine within the limits set by the EPA. It’s always a good idea to check with your local water utility to find out the specific levels of chloramine in your area.
Because chloramines persist in the water for longer than other disinfectants, they can have unexpected side effects. For instance, when this type of substance comes into contact with organic matter, it releases what are called disinfection byproducts or DBPs.
These by-products can be toxic. Some are even considered carcinogens in lab animals and might damage organs or weaken immune systems in people who are exposed to them.
Chloramines also increase the amount of lead that gets into the water if they come into contact with lead pipes. While almost all buildings no longer have this kind of plumbing, some older buildings still retain lead piping.
Ordinary water doesn’t pick up very much lead from them, however. Acidic water or drinking water treated with chloramines tends to leach more lead out of these antiquated pipes, increasing the danger to people who live in older buildings.