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Anna Eshoo takes up chloramine question

Original post made on Sep 3, 2007

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has arranged a meeting in early September between local opponents of the water additive chloramine and the federal Environmental Protection Agency — a major victory for the Menlo Park-based group representing hundreds of Bay Area residents who say they've suffered from skin, respiratory and intestinal ailments since the substance was added to the water in 2004.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (42)

Posted by Linda Corwin
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2007 at 4:02 pm

I wish to commend Mr DeBolt on his insightful article on chloramine. Water suppliers and health departments all over the country are trying to ignore our suffering by telling every one who complains to them that they have never heard of symptoms like that and that no one has ever complained to them about chloramine before. How long did they think they could get away with that tired old tactic? CCAC now has heard from people in 20 states and many groups are forming to protest the use of chloramine.
CCAC has tried to work with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission but instead of facing the problem and looking for a solution they spent $100,000.00 of our tax money to white wash the issue. Did they think we would be flummoxed by their obfuscation? We certainly were not!
Our federal legislators understand there is a problem that must be looked into and we are hoping the meeting with the EPA will result in a solution to the problem.
Linda Corwin - Pacifica

Posted by Jan Frederiksen
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2007 at 11:51 am

Thank you so much for covering this important issue about chloramine. I live in Belmont and ever since chloramine was added to my tap water by the SFPUC I have been having dry itchy skin and a runny nose every time I bathe or shower. I also get a runny nose when I do my dishes. This only happens when I am breathing water vapor or steam from chloraminated water.

I have none of these symptoms when I use water that has only chlorine in it or bottled natural spring water! It is very hard to avoid tap water especially for bathing. The more I am exposed to chloramine the worse my symptoms get. I love going out of town where they do not use chloramine because I can bathe or shower as long as I want without getting sick at all. At home I itch all night after bathing which deprives me of sleep. This situation is serious for those of us who are affected by chloramine in our water. We need relief...we are extremely grateful to Anna Eshoo, Ira Ruskin and others who are working to protect our health. It should be a great concern to everyone that the disinfection by-products of chloramine are more toxic that the ones made with chlorine.

We need chloramine out of our water now for the good of everyone.

Posted by NoBigLiesAllowedHere
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm

"It should be a great concern to everyone that the disinfection by-products of chloramine are more toxic that the ones made with chlorine."

This statement is the equivalent of Bush's insistence that Iraq had WMDs - it's pure bunk.

Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 13, 2007 at 10:10 pm

Thank you Daniel DeBolt and the Almanac for your great article on chloramine. I have lived in Menlo Park for 25 years and always enjoyed the wonderful water here until Feb. 2004 when chloramine replaced chlorine as the water disinfectant. Suddenly I started having immediate and serious reactions to tap water. I had not been informed of the change and had never even heard of chloramine. After only a few minutes of showering in chloraminated water, my sinuses and lungs became so congested that I began to sneeze, cough, choke and wheeze. The wheeing increased until I could no longer breathe. If a friend had not been there at the time I could have died. Once I was out of the shower I was able to breathe better but the congestion and the wheezing persisted for another 48 hrs.

This happened every time I tried to shower, and to a lesser degree when running water in a sink or boiling the water on the stove. I also had red burning skin from contact with the water that itched terribly for up to three days after each exposure. I even experienced coughing and digestive irritation after drinking or eating food prepared with the water. I never had symtoms like these before in my life and had no previous history of asthma.

My doctor tried every allergy medication known with no result. Finally he did a comprehensive medical examination and found that I was not having allergic reactions after all. My symptoms were consistent with some kind of chemical irritation -but to what? (Neither of us knew about the switch to chloramine then.)

Meanwhile my symptoms were getting progressivly worse as I continued to use my water, never dreaming that it could be the culprit. Then, in mid-March, someone I knew mentioned that a change in water disinfection had ocurred about the same time I first started having symptoms. She thought I might look into a possible connection. I was skeptical but checked on it anyway.

When I called the SFPUC I was told that chloramine had been added to the water on Feb. 2 2004, that it could not be the cause of my symptoms and that it would not have been in my water distribution area until Feb.3/04 since Menlo Park was a day away from the treatment plant. I informed them that I first experienced symptoms when showering at 4:00pm on Feb. 3/04, as verified by my medical records and that my doctor and I would investigate the coincidence.

I stopped using my tap water, started using bottled spring water for cooking, drinking, and sponge bathing and left town every weekend to shower at one of two different water districts that still used only chlorine in their water. My symptoms cleared up completely. Any time I tried to use water containing chloramine even in different locations or different water districts the same symptoms returned.

My doctor discovered that chloramine used in industry is known to cause skin and respiratory symptoms like mine. Industrial exposures are usually at higher dosage levels but some people will be sensitive at much lower dosage levels. Based on his findings he documented my case as "chloramine mediated respiratory tocicity".

I searched the available medical and scientific liturature and found no studies on the skin, respiratory or digestive(including food exposure) effects of chloramine as used as a water disinfectant. There also are no epidemiologic studies and only limited cancer studies that indicate that chloraminated water is possibly carcinogenic. How can this be considered a "safe" disinfectant for our water?

CCAC was born because there are many people like me who cannot use their chloraminated tap water without suffering serious health effects, some of which are life threatening. Our lives have been burdened to the breaking point by the constant and enormous amount of time, effort and expense it takes to avoid all our tap water. We have documented over 400 cases in the Bay Area alone. There are many more we don't even know about since most people have not heard about chloramine and its effects -yet.

We are also starting to hear from other areas of the country where chloramine is being used and is causing the same symptoms. Since our website was created a year ago we have heard about the suffering people are enduring because of chloramine in 20 different states. CCAC will be helping them to work with their lawmakers to challenge the EPA's regulations and the use of chloramine nationwide.

Those of us who are sensitive to chloramine now are the proverbial "canaries in the coal mine". Take heed. No one really knows if chloramine itself is safe. Now, thanks to Dr. Plewa, we know that chloramine creates nitrogen-containing disinfection by-products that are much more toxic than the by-products of chlorine.

It is time for our health departments and our utilities to stop denying the existance of chloramine's negative health effects and look into better alternatives. Water is a neccesity of life. We need water we can actually use.

Posted by Claudette Main
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2007 at 6:41 pm

I am so glad that you've printed Mr. DeBolt's insightful article on this very important heatlh issue. There are so many of us who have had adverse health effects ever since the chloramine (ammonia + chlorine) was put into the San Francisco water supply in February 2004. Hopefully, we will finally be able to get our legislators to realize that they must demand human health studies before this toxic chemical gets put into our drinking water.

Foster City

Posted by AlwaysCheckYourSources
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2007 at 11:14 pm

About the good Dr. Plewa that is cited above as some supposed water expert who's anti-chloramine:
Turns out he's actually a professor in the "Crop Science" Dept who works within the National Soybean Research Center (I kid you not!).

So now who should we believe about chloramine: The US Environmental Protection Agency or "Dr. Soybean"?

Posted by CheckYourChecker
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 20, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Yes, apparently Dr. Plewa is a professor in the Crop Science Dept. But I'm having a hard time figuring out why that should cause the previous poster to dismiss his studies about chloramine, and hold him up to ridicule. The focus of Plewa's work, according to the university's web site, is genetic toxicology, molecular mutagenesis and environmental mutagenesis. His conclusions aren't legitimate?

Posted by CheckTheSource
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2007 at 7:56 pm

The good professor studies crops, not humans, for goodness sakes - that's why he doesn't qualify as a true expert on this!

There are plenty of people out there who focus just on water treatment, water quality and public health - let one of those raise some issues and then I'll take notice. Until then, all you have is "Dr. Soybean" making wild claims outside his field of expertise.

Posted by Ron
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 21, 2007 at 9:54 am

Methinks CheckTheSource is suspiciously predisposed to dismissing chloramine concerns. Otherwise, why the cheap ridicule (Dr. Soybean? Oh, please.) and the out-of-hand rejection of Plewa's qualifications. Why is it so hard to believe that a scientist whose expertise is in genetic toxicology and molecular mutagenesis can legitimately study "genotoxicity of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water generated from different disinfection processes" (from the university web site)?

I have no emotional or other investment in believing or not believing this scientist's conclusions. But I am intensely interested in this issue. If Plewa is to be challenged, can the debate be elevated above cheap sarcasm?

Posted by CheapSarcasmRules
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Professors who push "junk science" deserve cheap sarcasm.

Dr. Soybean should stick to studying what he knows - soybeans - not trying to get more research dollars by making wild claims about something clearly outside his field of expertise.

Posted by Terri
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 21, 2007 at 9:11 pm

CheapSarcasmRules, your comment is about as cheap as the earlier sarcasm. And as meaningless. Substance, anyone?

Posted by Gregory
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 22, 2007 at 11:41 am

To: Mr Cheap Sarcasm Rules, "Resident of another community" who also calls himself Check the Source etc. While you feel free to denigrate Dr. Plewa and his expertise on the subject of Disinfection By-Product research you have failed to identify yourself, your place of residence and your background or field of expertise, if any. What is your affiliation to the agencies you mentioned? Are you, perhaps, a bureaucrat involved in water quality or public health? One of those same buraucrats who blindly and rather arrogantly assures the public that chloramine is "safe" when there are no epidemiologic studies, no skin or respiratory studies and such limited cancer studies that no conclusions can be drawn from them? The EPA itself states that it has no such studies. Yet it allows the use of chloramine in tap water. The EPA never did its homework before recommending the use of MTBE either. Scientific knowledge is always growing and evolving. Good scientists admit what they do not know and learn from new discoveries. Many times those who make new scientific discoveries are laughed at and disbelieved. People who are uncomfortable with new evidence that threatens their worldview are like members of the Flat Earth Society - they are in denial and believe only what they can see themselves.

Posted by JustSayNoToJunkScience
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2007 at 10:23 pm

Would you take the word of a plastic surgeon on how to treat your failing heart - after all, he's a "doctor."

Well then, if you want to take the word of a PhD in CROP SCIENCE about a human-health issue because, after all, he holds a PhD in something so he must be right, go right ahead.

Oh and by the way, Dr. Soybean is talking about genetics, while the symptoms being reported are allegic reactions. For the scientifically uniformed, that's the equivalent of "apples and oranges."

Oh and finally, about that meeting with EPA - EPA told them to let Dr. Soybean try to convince the public health experts (CDC) that there's something really going on, because they're not buying the junk science he's trying to sell.

Posted by Ron
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 24, 2007 at 4:34 pm

JustSayNo..., Sorry, trying to shape the facts to fit your worldview results only in twisted "facts."

1. Plewa is a PhD in BIOLOGY/GENETICS. Check out the university's web site.

2. According to the article, chloramine symptoms MIMIC allergic reactions, but are not necessarily allergic reactions.

3. The EPA? Do you mean that agency that's run primarily by folks whose credentials consist of being able to navigate the swinging door between big-industry interests and the federal government -- or being part of the current administration's circle of yes men/women? (Had to add the "women" in light of Christie "The air at Ground Zero is perfectly safe" Whitman's reprehensible betrayal of the public trust.)

I'm still waiting for some substance to take the place of sarcasm and the baseless dismissal of this researcher.

Posted by Terry=Ron=Gregory=AllTheSame
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2007 at 8:42 pm


Talk about twisting facts:

1) Dr. Soybean is a professor of CROP SCIENCE - he knows PLANTS, NOT PEOPLE (apples vs. oranges)
2) All the hubub is over ALERGIC REACTIONS - that's all! Not genetic mutations!
3) Don't like the EPA because Bush is in charge - OK, that's your wacky conspiracy theory. But what about the CDC??? Are they in on it too?

Give me a break!

Posted by Ron
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 25, 2007 at 8:22 am

T=R=G=etc., The message implicit in your signature is only proof that nuanced debate is completely lost on you. One last attempt:

Plewa earned his PhD in BIOLOGY/GENETICS. He WORKS in the university's crop sciences department. Two different things, yet your earlier post (and your above post, implicitly) states his PhD is in crop sciences.

Reactions that MIMIC allergic reactions can be quite different from "allergic reactions." The article states that the people having symptoms "have reported suffering effects from the chloramine that mimic allergic reactions, including skin rashes, respiratory problems and inflamed digestive tracts, according to the Menlo Park-based Citizens Concerned About Chloramine." Two different things, but you apparently need all your "facts" dished up plain and simple -- with a "that's all!" dash of salt to taste.

Sinking into the "wacky conspiracy theory" muck of nonargument is a tactic so stale and tired it only further damages your credibility. I can't even answer your question "what about the CDC?" because, to my knowledge, the CDC is not yet a player in this matter. Your question lacks relevance.

Posted by JustSayNoToHysteria
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2007 at 8:54 pm


You're like a political on the campaign trail - dodging the issues with spin, half-facts and brushoffs:

1) Dr. Soybean: I don't care what his PhD says, he works in the CROP SCIENCE DEPT - HE"S A CROP SCIENTIST. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTS!

2) What does genetic mutation of plants (what Dr. Soybean studies) have to do with human skin rashes????

3) The CDC is not a player because they don't believe the junk Dr. Soybean is selling!!!!
"Despite the anecdotal reports, Bruce Macler of the federal EPA's San Francisco office defended the switch to chloramine. Procedurally, he said, reports of bad reactions to chloramine must be recognized by the Centers for Disease Control or the medical community before the EPA can take action."

Posted by Jeff Hoel
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2007 at 2:02 pm

AlwaysCheckYourSources, CheckTheSource, CheapSarcasmRules,
JustSayNoToJunkScience, Terry=Ron=Gregory=AllTheSame, and JustSayNoToHysteria
(all residents of another community):

Dr. Michael Plewa is a professor of genetics. When he's studying the
toxicities of disinfection byproducts, he's not working on crops.

Web Link

Ridiculing him for working at the National Soybean Research Center is a bit like ridiculing Albert Einstein for working at the Swiss Patent Office.

Here's the abstract of the paper that studied the toxicities of seven
haloacetonitriles, which are disinfection byproducts of both chlorine and chloramine, and which are not currently regulated by the EPA, even though they are more toxic than the currently regulated disinfection byproducts (according to the paper).

Web Link

By the way, coauthor Susan Richardson works for the EPA.

Web Link

Look, ridiculing people is not how science is supposed to work. In my opinion, it's not even how commenting about Almanac articles is supposed to work.

People tend to be more reasonable and polite when other people know who they are. Please consider revealing your real full name and community in your future comments, if any. Thanks.

Palo Alto

Posted by Terri
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 26, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for the links, Jeff. Good luck getting through to Mr./Ms. NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS, though. In addition to a full name and community, I wish he/she would also reveal any affiliation, if any, with an agency or company that has a special interest in NOT studying this issue.

Posted by AnotherObserver
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 26, 2007 at 10:30 pm

While “Another Community” is definitely over the top in his/her comments, they are actually not that far off base IMO.

The basic problem I see is that we have here a professor who - while he may have a PhD in biology/genetics, apparently has a very thin (if any) background in public health - conducts a single study looking at "Chinese hamster ovaries" (according to the link provided above) and apparently uses that single result to conclude that we should immediately get rid of chloramines and, I assume, go back to what we had before - chlorine, something we know for sure is a "bad actor" (it produces cancer-causing THMs).

So while I would give the professor an "A" for investigating this issue scientifically, I would give him an "F" for attempting to then play a “policy guru” and suggest wholesale changes nationwide (the Almanac article states that one-third of the country has already converted to the disinfectant) based on relatively little hard evidence – that’s EPA’s job.

And as to Another Community’s opponents condemning EPA as wishing to somehow sweep this under the rug or ignore it completely, that argument breaks down with the fact that someone from EPA actually worked on the study that the professor did in the first place! (In fact, I would bet that the study was actually funded by the EPA!)

Finally, this whole issue of allergic and respiratory reactions allegedly due to the chloramines in the water soundly eerily familiar to those reports of individuals with "multiple chemical sensitivities.”

From the American Academy of Family Physicians:
Web Link

"Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) has been described under various names since the 1940s. MCS syndrome is characterized by the patient's belief that his or her symptoms are caused by very low-level exposure to environmental chemicals. The term "chemical" is used to refer broadly to many natural and man-made chemical agents, some of which have several chemical constituents. Health care professionals who focus on MCS often refer to themselves as practicing "clinical ecology." MCS syndrome has led to great controversy among clinicians, researchers, patients, lawyers, legislators and regulatory agencies. The absence of scientific agreement on MCS has contributed to the development of emotionally charged, extreme and entrenched positions. Gots summarized the controversy as follows:

"[MCS] has been rejected as an established organic disease by the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, the American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. It may be the only ailment in existence in which the patient defines both the cause and the manifestations of his own condition. Despite this, it has achieved credibility in workmen's [sic] compensation claims, tort liability, and regulatory actions."

IMO this is the real issue – not whether some professor should be called “Professor Soybean.”

Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2007 at 8:04 pm

To IMO: I am the founder and president of the non-profit organization Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC). I have personally interviewed the 400+ individuals from the Bay Area and hundreds of others from around the country who have documented the cause and effect between their skin, respiratory and digestive symptoms and their exposure to chloraminated tap water. I have come to know many of their cases very well since I work with them on a regular basis. None of them has ever had or currently has multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Most of them have never had symptoms like these before and are generally healthy. CCAC has been contacted by 4 people who did say they had MCS, but they are not included in CCAC's symptom base because their cases were too complex and they were unable to establish clear cut cause and effect between their symptoms and chloramine. In order to link cause and effect, an individual must avoid all chloraminated tap water and substitute bottled spring water, chlorinated water or water from some other source that does not contain chloramine in any amount. If their symptoms clear up they then go back to using chloraminated water and see if their symptoms return. This test is repeated (if it is medically advisable) several different times to rule out coincidence. Avoiding all tap water is difficult, expensive and extremely inconvenient. However, people are willing to do this since most of them have exhausted what medicine has to offer and found no relief - most doctors have not heard of chloramine and there are no studies they can refer to for diagnosis. The reactions CCAC has documented seem similar to allergies but actually are irritations to the skin and the mucous membranes in the digestive tract, the respiratory tract and the eyes. Chloramine combines with moisture in these tissues and breaks down into hypochlorous acid and ammonia both of which further dry, irritate and damage the tissues, thus initiating an inflammatory response. These effects have been observed in people who are exposed to chloramine at higher dosage levels in swimming pools and in industry. OSHA and the CDC among others have numerous studies on the subject. However, there have been no studies on these effects at lower dosage level exposures such as those used to disinfect drinking water. Other studies show that human and animal cells actually manufacture small amounts of chloramine, when needed, for the very purpose of initiating inflammation in the body.Some of these studies can be found on CCAC's website @ These are just a few of the interesting pieces of research that indicate a possible connection between the symptoms people are experiencing and chloramine. Although they do not constitute proof of the matter, they are a good place to begin when future studies on chloraminated tap water are designed.
As to Dr. Michael Plewa's background, he has not just done one "single" study on DBP's, he has done several. One of them was on iodoacids, another very toxic DBP created with the use of chloramine. Research by Dr. Richard Bull, Dr. David Reckhow and others had previously identified the nitrogen containing DBP's in Califonia's water supplies where chloramine was used and predicted their toxicity. Dr, Plewa's most recent research confirms that these new (and as yet un-regulated) nitrogen containing DBP's are many magnitudes more toxic than the currently regulated DBP's of chlorine(THM's and HAA's). DBP's are a long-term health effect issue (ie. cancer). The short-term effects that some individuals are having(skin, respiratory etc.) could also develop in other people after long-term chronic exposure, but these effects are seldom - if ever studied. As Dr. David Ozonoff said, these health effects "are notice to look into the matter."

Posted by AnotherObserver
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:19 pm


I was not necessarily suggesting that all the people claiming being affected by chloramine are also claiming MCS - I was merely suggesting a striking parallel between the two conditions.

You cite that cause and effect have been established by individuals cycling through periods using and then not using chloramine-treated water. Are these controlled experiments where at least some individuals are given the equivalent of a placebo (that is, given chloramine-containing water when told it was chloramine-free or vis versa)? Because if not, the question of how much of this is physical and how much is psychosomatic is left open as in the case of MCS. Given that you didn't made any headway with the EPA, I assume those "tests" you cite weren't under such controlled conditions.

As for Dr. Plewa, I will again say that he got WAY too far ahead of himself in calling for the immediate removal of chloramine - in contrast, the reaction you cite from Dr. David Ozonoff ("these health effects are notice to look into the matter") is much more the proper response at this time.

Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 28, 2007 at 4:48 pm

To: Another Observer, thanks for the question about placebos and controlled testing for chloramine exposure. There are a large number of cases in CCAC's data base of people who thought they were using water that did not contain chloramine, experienced symptoms and then learned that they had in fact been exposed. In rarer instances there are individuals who thought they were exposed - yet to their surprise, they had none of their typical symptoms. When the facts were known they had actually not been exposed. It is easy to be inadvertantly exposed - when traveling out of town to areas that did not formerly use chloramine and had just converted or when using filtered bottled water (not knowing that most types of filters do not remove chloramine and no filters remove it all). Some people have installed expensive whole house filtration systems believing that they would get relief from their symptoms. When they did not get relief they had their filtration systems tested - some by the local water departments, and found that they were not effective at chloramine removal. In some cases debris and sediment from work done replacing water system distribution pipes had clogged and ruined their new filters. Others with digestive sensitivity to chloramine who were drinking and cooking with spring water but thought they were safe using "all natural" food products traced their unanticipated reactions to only those products that were processed with water in areas using chloramine. One doctor I had seen offered me some botteld spring water at his office - he knew I had reported chloramine sensitivity. He substituted chloraminated tap water, without my knowledge, to verify my reaction to it for himself. My sensitivity to that water visibly shocked him and he apologized deeply. A local couple who have not been able to shower in their own home for the last 3 years because of severe respiratory and skin reactions to chloramine, looked forward to their yearly summer visits to a city in Oregon that only used chlorine in the water. There they could both shower and bathe as much as they wanted to without getting sick. This year however, on their usual visit, both of them experienced the same symptoms using that city's water that they had at home since the addition of chloramine here. They investigated and found out that earlier this year that city had just started using chloramine for the first time. Another man who contacted CCAC, lives in an a small area in San Jose served by private well water treated with chlorine only. He has never had symptoms where he lives but when he travels for work or pleasure he has experienced skin and respiratory symptoms when using tap water in some places but not others. After hearing about chloramine and its possible effects, he checked his travel records, called all the water districts in which he stayed and verified that his symptoms occurred only in areas using chloramine. The placebo effect seems to be ruled out from the evidence CCAC has seen. Although we have hundreds of compelling reports such as these they are still anecdotal. CCAC is not a research institution with funding to conduct formal studies. This is why we are asking for them and lawmakers like Ira Ruskin and Anna Eshoo are listening. The EPA has been informed about this issue for some time and has shown no interest in even looking at the anecdotal data that CCAC has collected. The EPA and the health departments claim that there is simply no "population effect". I have pointed out to them that since there are no epidemiologic studies or indeed any skin or respiratory studies on chloramine they cannot know this. The EPA claims that health officials must say there is a problem before they can act. Without studies doctors cannot be expected to link symptoms to chloraminated water. - Doctors are not researchers or epidemiologists. Therefore they cannot be expected to report a problem with chloramine to the health departments or to the CDC - like they do with infectious disease outbreaks. The EPA is playing a little game of passing the buck so that they can continue to do nothing in the hope that we will just go away and save them some embarrassment. Meanwhile more people are being exposed to and harmed by this potentially dangerous disinfectant. The "possible" health threat from chlorine's DBP's takes 70+ yrs. of exposure and then is only a suspected threat and not a definite one. These DBP's can be effectively and easily removed at point of use if one cares to. Dr. Plewa and others have observed that the DBP's of chloramine are much more toxic than those of chlorine. So the better choice is to return to the use of chlorine until more is known. Why risk worse outcomes in the short-term and in the long-term? CCAC has heard from many individuals who are willing to be part of a controlled cause and effect study on chloraminated tap water. It should be relatively easy to design since these are short-term effects. I challenge the health departments, the EPA and/or the CDC to do one instead of making excuses.

Posted by RealityCheckPlease
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2007 at 9:48 pm

Here's a posting from another anti-chlormaine-ite from the Palo Alto Weekly forum - once again, these anti-chlormaine folks are much like the anti-fluoride folks, given to hyperbole and conspiracy theories, and can't be taken seriously:

Having suffered severe rashes, shortness of breath, watching a grandchild be born with the same rash on its face and then having two incidents o "blue baby" syndrome-probably because chloramine increases nitrogen which decrease the oxygen supply to the heart-,I was very depressed to not have been given a say or to be given respect at all of the many meetings that I and the Menlo Park group attended in good faith, and armed with scientific research. All this began shortly after the SFPUC decided to dose our water with chloramine on February 2004. Regardless of the fact that additional studies done by top EPA researchers, show that the secondary disinfection by-products formed from chloramine treated water are considered lethal toxins, which they know are killing people,and cause spontaneous abortions.

The question is, how moral is the agenda 21, UN mandate requiring "Zero Population Growth",which reflects the ideology contained in the Stanford Farms Population Bomb social workers for manking beliefs that there are too many people for too few resources?

Posted by Ellen Powell
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2007 at 6:59 pm

Dear RealityCheckPlease,

Apparently before this comment had even cooled over at paloaltoonline, you copied and pasted it it here to make your point that we who suffer from health effects of chloraminated water are all a bunch of kooks, which begs the question: who are you really and what is your affiliation? If you are just a Joe Citizen why are you spending so much time and effort to discredit us? It appears "the lady doth protest too much".

Do you dare to put your real name and your affiliation down here so that we know who we are dealing with?

I am not afraid to say who I am: Ellen Powell. I founded People concerned About Chloramine (PCAC) in Vermont, where we have 210 people who are suffering from health effects from chloraminated water. These symptoms are the same as the symptoms being reported in the San Francisco Bay area and 19 other states. This is not a coincidence. Further, we in VT have 50+ of our 210 who have demonstrated cause and effect by going off the chloraminated water, to see their symptoms go away. And they do. Every one.

I have spoken to CCAC members and read through their website and I know that neither CCAC nor PCAC support conspiracy theories. We are interested in science, not conspiracy theories. Further, we have our hands full with the suffering that is happening due to chloraminated water. Who's got time for conspiracy theories?

It seems to me that, for some reason, you are expending quite a lot of time and energy trying to discredit people suffering from chloraminated water so this thing can be "nipped in the bud". I think you're too late in your efforts. The bud is turning into a flower. There are hundreds of us sufferers across the country who are finding each other through the wonderful internet, and I have no doubt that before this is over, it will come to light that there are thousands or even dare I say possibly millions across the USA, all suffering the same symptoms from the (yet-UNSTUDIED respiratory and skin) health effects of chloramine in our tap water (not to mention digestive problems as well).


Posted by SeeYouLater
a resident of another community
on Oct 1, 2007 at 10:48 pm


Everyone needs a cause in life - glad you have found yours.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 4:21 pm

My family and I have had rashes and respiratory problems from bathing and showering in tap water since the change to chloramine in February 2004. Doctors could not help or find the cause of our problems. When we stopped using our tap water and started bathing in spring water or water that only contained chlorine, all our symptoms disappeared. While I do not believe in any conspiracy theories, I feel for Nancy's hurt and frustration. We too have been ignored by those very agencies who are entrusted with the safety of our water supplies. It is much easier and more emotionally satisfying to believe in intelligent malicious intentions rather than to face the even more disturbing prospect that these agencies know so little and care even less about chloramine's effects on us.

Posted by Robert Helwing
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2007 at 1:14 am

I am a chemist with concerns about the use of chloramine in the municipal water supply as a replacement disinfectant for chlorine. I read about the switch to chloramine in my local newspaper, the Sunnyvale Sun, over three years ago and wasn't too happy about it as I anticipated unforeseen problems. Several months later, some neighbors asked me if I was experiencing any problems since the switch to chloramine as they were suffering from intense itching when taking a shower. Although I had not experienced any problems myself, I began to investigate the issue and found that indeed there were a number of individuals suffering from various symptoms and that there were other problems arising as well including those that can affect our household plumbing and so forth. I wasn't surprised.

The challenges regarding water chemistry are amazingly complex and numerous due to the unique properties of water as both a solvent and as a reactive compound. While there are some individuals who seek to discredit those who are experiencing various symptoms or those who are conducting research into the matter, I feel that they are pathetically misguided and ignorant of the real potential for problems due to the complexity of water chemistry. In addition, there has been a surprising lack of research into the potential health effects and environmental hazards of using chloramine as a disinfectant. Certainly this should have been done prior to the EPA's forced switch from chlorine to chloramine.

To date there has been growing evidence of serious health and environmental problems associated with the use of chloramine. Health problems appear to encompass three major areas that include skin reactions, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal symptoms with varying degrees of seriousness for some victims including those that are life-threatening. Environmental problems stemming from the use of chloramine as a disinfectant are becoming evident with signs of severe corrosion in copper pipes and lead leaching from old solder joints that threaten us with lead poisoning. Dr. Michael Plewa, of the University of Illinois, has been investigating the toxicity of chloramine and its disinfectant by-products and has found that there is a significant increase in the toxicity of these compounds relative to those derived from chlorine used alone as a disinfectant. Dr. Marc Edwards, from Virginia Tech, has been studying the effects of chloramine versus that of chlorine on our plumbing systems and has found serious corrosion taking place along with lead leaching into the water due to chloramine whereas chlorine by itself does not promote these effects. These research results should spur further research into the question of the safety of using chloramine as a disinfectant BEFORE we are forced to use it in our municipal water supplies. To refuse to carry out health and environmental studies before implementation of a new disinfection protocol is highly irresponsible at the very least, and potentially criminal in conduct should the seriousness of the results obtained so far be verified. In the meantime, it would be highly prudent to halt the forced utilization of chloramine as a disinfectant at the present time, and in fact go back to using chlorine by itself, until a proper and thorough investigation has been done on chloramine.

Posted by Paul Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2007 at 9:50 pm

While Mr. Helwing seeks to present himself as a neutral observer and water chemistry expert, he is not:

A quick Google search shows he is a lead activist in the local anti-chloramine group. Furthermore, he is a self-described "former", not active, chemist, who apparently has little or no background/experience in water quality/chemistry.

Furthermore, Mr. Helwing cites toxicity concerns and potential leaching of lead from corrosion as his concerns. While, if true, both would be legitimate health concerns, they have nothing to do with the effects being claimed by the anti-chloramine group - namely rashes and breathing problems.

For folks open to hearing "the rest of this story," here's the staff report given to the SF PUC on this issue last November, which features a report from the staff epidemiologist, who most definitely would be considered an expert on this issue:

One last thing - the Commission supported the staff's findings and who was one of the Commissioners lending such support? None other than Mr. Adam Werbach, who is an environmental activist who founded the Sierra Student Coalition, the United States' largest student-run environmental organization in 1991 and who was subsequently elected as the national president of the Sierra Club in 1996.

Thus the mere fact that the anti-chloramine group was not able to convince the former head of one of the world's leading environmental organizations that there was a legitimate problem here with chloramine speaks volumes as to the validity of the claims being made that these isolated cases are somehow due to chloramine.

8b. Chloramine Report

General Manager Leal presented a brief overview and background related to issues of public interest concerning the use of Chloramines as a disinfectant in the water system. President Sklar noted that this presentation was in response to anecdotal questions and concerns raised by members of the public resulting in the Commissioner’s request to staff 10 weeks previously that an expert response be presented to address these issues and concerns. The experts offering responses were identified as Mr. Bruce McGurk from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Ms. Catherine Ma and Mr. David Spath from the California Department of Health Services; Mr. Dean Peterson of the San Mateo Department of Public Health and Ms. June Weintraub from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The presentation began with information on disinfection. It was reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves disinfections and there are two types, the first to kill pathogens and chlorine is used at all of our facilities. Additionally ozone is used at one treatment plant and there are plans to use UV light at Hetch Hetchy. The available disinfectant choices were identified as chlorine and Chloramine. It was reported that the SFPUC in February 2004, converted to use of chloramines. It was noted that the challenge with disinfection was to provide adequate pathogen kill while minimizing disinfection byproducts. It was reported that chloramines have been around for 90 years and were first used in 1917. Chlorine it was noted has been used since 1908. It was estimated at 29% of community water systems use chloramine and that its use was expected to go up dramatically as a result of new byproduct legislation. A table was presented demonstrating that a lot of utilities in outside of the United States use chloramine - citing Ottawa, Canada, Sydney, Australia, and in Finland. Other American cities using it were identified as Portland, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, the Metropolitan Water District, and in the Bay Area, Contra Costa. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) was the last in the Bay Area in 2004 to change to the use of chloramines.

It was noted in preparation for this presentation that many resources and health and regulatory authorities were studied as well as the National Library of Medicine's database which includes thousands of journals and extensive EPA material, the California Department of the Health Services, Health Canada, Environment Canada, the World Health Organization, (WHO) and American Water Works Society and its journal and conference database as well as reports of the International Water Association. Staff reported discussions with the American Water Works research staff and reported that they had peer reviewed what staff had prepared on this topic and agreed that the information reported made sense. Additionally, it was noted that staff spoke with 17 other utilities throughout the country providing a broad cross-section of users such as Philadelphia, Water Resources, of Greater Boston and the Washington Aqueduct in D.C., Tampa, Denver, and several other Bay Area users. It was reported that staff had contacted health and water quality experts, preformed internet searches, reviewed the Department’s own records and did chloramine loss and removal tests in our laboratory. In preparation for this presentation it was estimated the PUC spent about six months of staff time, $100,000 doing this comprehensive review of chloramine science. In addition staff met with interested stakeholders on October 31, 2006, and had what was believed to be a helpful and productive meeting. The results of this information based upon our data showed that, chloramine is more effective for disinfection in distribution systems. In response to Commissioner’s questions it was noted disinfection in the distribution system is required. It was reported that use of liquid chlorine presents a hazard if released and therefore liquid chlorine was phased out in the late 1990's and the distribution system has continued to see excellent results after conversion to chloromines.

Ms. June Weintraub, an epidemiologist representing the San Francisco Department of Public Health, then discussed some of the health concerns that were raised at previous meetings and described why the balance of evidence showed that there was not any reason to be concerned about chloramines use related public health issues at this time. She noted in summary, that there was no evidence in the medical literature linking chloramine to drinking and bathing water to the health concerns raised. She observed that there was always the possibility that individuals have specific sensitivity to chemicals in the environment, but there is no evidence that these health affects are occurring on the population level. Ms. Weintraub noted that the Department of Public Health recommended that people with individual health concerns discuss these with their doctors. She further noted that conditions that people have described can be caused by any number of underlying conditions and even environmental exposures and it was important for people not to focus on one particular explanation for their health problems, as they could something really important. She reported that local physicians have a mechanism to contact the public health agencies if a physician sees something unusual in their practice, then they can discuss it with public health agencies, and any necessary action can be taken.

Commissioner Werbach applauded the presentation, observing that he had learned a lot and noted that the Commissioners were concerned because of the bad history that led to the passage of the precautionary principle in San Francisco. Commissioner Werbach recalled the Romans saying that lead was okay and a farmer telling their workers DDT was harmless. In response to Commissioner Werbach’s question about how does this reconcile with the concept of the precautionary principle, the answer was made that it absolutely reconciled and that as the precautionary principle states you have to make decisions on what to do be based on the best available evidence and the availability of alternatives. The number one fact was noted that we have to disinfect in the distribution system, because otherwise, you get cholera, typhoid, and number two there is very strong evidence that chlorine causes disinfection byproducts, which lead to cancer therefore we have an alternative, the alternative is chloramine. It was noted that at this point staff cannot make decisions today on the absence of evidence and based on what is known, chloramine is the right thing. It was noted again that regarding individual health concerns, staff supports any needed additional studies, and should further study show there was a public health issue, action would be taken. The basic point was made that based upon the known physiology and about how chloramine behaves in the environment and how it's dealt with physiologically, there did not seem to be a plausible reason to support preemptive action.

President Sklar asked if there had been any attempt by any member of Commission or by the General Manager to influence the scientific and engineering conclusions in the staff’s report and was informed the results reported been completely independent. President Sklar thanked the presenters and the General Manager, finding this presentation to be one of the most intellectually complete presented to the Commission on such a difficult topic.

Posted by Jan Frederiksen
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Dear Mr.Harvey, are you a water treatment professional, chemist, SFPUC employee or EPA employee etc.? I noticed that you did not identify your background. From your comment you do not sound like a neutral observer yourself. I will state up front that my husband and I both suffer symptoms from chloraminated water. My husband has respiratory and digestive irritation when exposed, and I experience skin and respiratory problems. I have always been very healthy and neither of us have any symptoms when using spring water or chlorinated tap water. I attended the Nov.14/06 SFPUC meeting that you cite above. That meeting was supposed to be a report on the "study of studies" - the SFPUC's investigation of the claim that there was a lack of health studies on chloraminated water. Specifically, there are no epidemiologic studies, no skin, respiratory or digetive(including food exposure) studies, and only inadequate cancer studies on chloraminated water. The SFPUC spent several months searching for such studies but found none. So they turned the meeting into the same old tired lecture about how great chloramine is anyway (never mentioning the lack of studies). They even had the nerve to say that since they found "no evidence" in the scientific or medical literature linking chloramine to skin, respiratory or digestive problems, there was no reason for concern. The hundreds (and probably many many more) of us who are seriously harmed and cannot use our tap water can be dismissed because we do not represent a "population effect"! Whithout studies how do they know we don't? I also attended the Oct.31/06 meeting with SFPUC, EPA and health department officials. Again we were treated to the same lectures, stonewalling, excuse making, and baseless assurances of chloramine's saftey. The only notable moment at that meeting came when Ms. June Weintraub the epidemiogist for the S.F. Public Health Dept. claimed that there was no water vapor created during showering and thus no respiratory exposure to chloraminated water! If I had not been a witness I would not have believed it. In my eyes her credibility is in serious question. Ms. Weintraub approved the safety of chloramine (without adequate studies) for the SFPUC in the first place as their contractor. All the experts you cite had a hand in the descision to use chloramine. That includes the EPA. These people can hardly be considered to be independent. Why would they need any arm twisting to defend their own actions? It looks to me like the fox gaurding the henhouse claiming no chickens were harmed. On top of it all $100,000 of taxpayers money was wasted on a whitewash. Is "the other side of the story" really worth telling?

Posted by Paul Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2007 at 10:03 pm


"The only notable moment at that meeting came when Ms. June Weintraub the epidemiogist for the S.F. Public Health Dept. claimed that there was no water vapor created during showering and thus no respiratory exposure to chloraminated water!"

No, you got that wrong. It's not water vapor itself that she was referring to - it's that there would be no CHLORAMINE in the water vapor created. Why not? - Because in the form that chloramine would exist in tap water (specifically as monochloromine), it is virtually non-volatile - that is, it doesn't go off into the air.

So, yes, there would be no respiratory exposure to chlormaine during showering.

See the report "Cloramine Q and A: Household" located at the bottom of this webpage from the SF PUC for more info:

Web Link

Posted by Denise Johnson-Kula
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:27 am

Paul, If monochloramine is virtually non-volatile and is almost never released from the water into the air - as you claim, then tell me Paul, where does the monochloramine go when heated chloraminated water comming out of a showerhead becomes water vapor? If monochloramine stays in the water when that water becomes a vapor, then it is in the vapor. Vapor can be inhaled. Perhaps you and Ms. Weintraub only take ice cold showers. Even then, the aerosolization of that cold water containing monochloramine creates a fine mist in the air. Mist can also be inhaled. At the very same 10/31/06 meeting where Ms. June Weintraub denied that one could have respiratory exposure to chloraminated water in the shower or anywhere else, Mr. Andrzej Wilczak, a chemist for the SFPUC also made a presentation. Mr. Wilczak had performed some volatilization tests on chloramine for the SFPUC. At a shower temperature of 100 deg.F (which is typical for bathing), about 8% of the chloramine was lost from the water when he ran his shower for only 5 min. He measured this by comparing the amount of chloramine in the water comming out of the showerhead with the amount of chloramine still in the water he collected in the drain. Where did the missing chloramine go? It whent into the air, either in the form of a vapor or a gas. Most people shower longer than 5 minutes. Vapor and gases can accumulate quickly in a small shower stall or bathroom. This can lead to an intense respiratory exposure to chloramine. Many of the people who have reported respiratory sensitivity to chloraminated water find that they do better when taking cooler, shorter showers or taking baths instead. This makes sense since both temperature and aerosolization affect volitalization and vapor formation. Mr. Wilczak also proved that chloramine can be boiled out of water in 20 min. Again, the chloramine is released into the air. In addition to bathing and showering, many household appliances heat and aerosolize chloraminated water releasing it into the air. It is interesting that the SFPUC chose not to metion Mr. Wilczak's findings at the 11/14/06 meeting. Their presentation seemed crafted to leave out any inconvenient information. Ms. Weintraub has made other silly statements in the past and is, in my opinion, an embarrassment. We sould think twice before simply accepting the word of such "experts".

Posted by Jan
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Dear Mr. Harvey, I beleive that you were not present at the Oct.31/06 SFPUC meeting. I was and I saw and heard what actually happened there. Ms. Weintraub was asked directly what happened when chloraminated water became water vapor - did that vapor contain chloramine? Her rather hot answer was "I don't know. I can't answer that question!" She clearly did not mean that chloramine was not in the vapor. Take a look at the video of the Nov.14/06 SFPUC meeting. When Ms. Weintraub tried to answer Mr. Werbach's question about respiratory exposure to chloramine in a shower, she claimed that there were only water droplets that hit the floor in a shower and therefore no respiratory exposure. She avoided the issue about water vapor completely.

Posted by Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 12, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Jan, I wouldn't bet that "Paul Harvey" wasn't at the SFPUC meeting. His postings on this and the related chloramine thread on this site sound suspiciously like the spin coming out of the PUC's Public Information Office. Mr. Harvey claims to want to tell "the rest of the story," when in fact, what he's providing are diversions and triangulations. His tactics are all too apparent.

Posted by Paul "Chloramine" Harvey
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:42 pm


Yes, you caught me, darn it! I'm just a Bush-appointed EPA scientist in on the whole government-wide conspiracy to put fluoride, chloramine and God/Bush/Cheney only know what else in our water to control and slowly kill us. I also get paid big $$$ by "industry" (and the SF PUC) every time I write something they tell me to write in these forums. But now I've been exposed - drats!

Posted by Gregory
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 9:35 am

Mr. Harvey.
Just one question - why do you spend so much time and energy on an issue you claim not to care about?

Posted by Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 13, 2007 at 10:20 am

Mr. Harvey doth protest too much, methinks.

Posted by Katie Powell
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2008 at 10:53 am

I live in Los Angeles where (I discovered a week ago) we have chloramine in the water. A week ago I started washing & cooking in bottled water and THE RASH IS ALMOST GONE NOW. My skin felt as if it were too small for my body. I could not even stretch or do yoga to relieve the tension of the burning & itching & blisters & scabs. I must have looked as if I were in pain, but there was nothing wrong with my body. I simply could not bear to bend, as being in my body was so uncomfortable at all times. I had the rash for two months. I also had the worst cough I have ever had. It is gone. I was at my wit's end trying to work out what was going on with me. Thank you so much to everyone who is active in bringing this problem to the attention of the public.

Posted by erin
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2009 at 12:15 pm

my family and I live in ormond beach, fl. we started this year out with a very bad head cold. the sinus pressure,allergy symptoms. then i broke out with a rash and had dizzy spells. after process of elimination i focused on the water. my city uses chloramine to treat the water. thank you all for the ways you have given to overcome this sickness and itchy rash.

Posted by Robin
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2012 at 7:29 am

I live in Port Orange, Florida. Ever since the city introduced the use of chloramines in the water, my skin has been red, irritated, bleeding, on every part of my body. It has ruined my life. I am in agony every day. Do you have any answers as to how I can get some help?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 3, 2017 at 8:35 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Sep 6, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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