Uploaded: Wed, Aug 22, 2007, 12:13 pm
Eshoo asks feds to look at chloramine safety
Dozens of area residents say water additive causes allergic reaction
In an effort to help dozens of Peninsula residents, including 30 from Mountain View and others from Palo Alto, who say their sensitivity to chloramine has caused skin rashes and respiratory problems, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is pulling strings to allow them to speak with the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Constituents have raised their serious concerns about chloramine," said Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. "I think it's important for the EPA and the Public Utility Commission to hear directly from them and I am facilitating this.
"The use of chloramine as a disinfectant in public water should be guided by sound science showing that it is both safe and effective."
Chloramine replaced chlorine as the disinfectant for Hetch Hetchy tap water in 2004. The switch had been recommended by the EPA to reduce the carcinogenic byproducts of chlorine.
"Since then, however, more than 400 Bay Area residents have reported allergic reactions to chloramine, including skin rashes, respiratory problems and inflamed digestive tracts, according to the Menlo Park-based Citizens Concerned About Chloramine."
That group's president, Denise Johnson-Kula, said the goal of the meeting, scheduled for Sept. 5, is to start a discussion with the EPA about providing a "waiver" to local water agencies allowing them to go back to chlorine use -- despite whatever effects that may have on byproducts in the tap water.
On the Peninsula, this could put responsibility for the problem back into the hands of the local water provider, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has said its switch to chloramine was prompted by EPA recommendations.
The group has joined forces with others from as far away as Vermont to build a national movement to stem the disinfectant's use until studies can be done on its health effects. The renewed effort came after a California bill to study chloraminated tap water, authored by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin, failed for the second year in a row this summer.
The groups celebrated one of their first victories two weeks ago, when a handful of residents in Pennsylvania were able to delay a switch to chloramine by the Pennsylvania-based American Water Company.
Opponents said proper studies of its health effects had not been conducted.
One-third of the country has already converted to the disinfectant, Kula said. Water agencies, meanwhile, say some places have used chloramine since the early 1900s with no reported problems.
The EPA recommended that water agencies switch to chloramine to reduce trihalomethanes, a carcinogenic byproduct of chlorine disinfection. But the byproducts of chloramine are even more dangerous, according to Dr. Michael Plewa, professor of genetics at the University of Illinois, who recently published a study on tap water disinfection byproducts.
In an e-mail to the Mountain View Voice (the Weekly's sister paper), Plewa said the byproducts of chloramine are "much more toxic" than chlorine's -- and that these byproducts are found in California water supplies. He recommends that water agencies switch back to chlorine.
Whether chloramine itself can be linked to people's health problems has yet to be studied. David Ozonoff, M.D., a professor of public health at Boston University, says that question is definitely worth looking into.
"A close temporal relationship between the treatment change and the complaints of water users strongly suggests that one is the cause of the other," he wrote in a letter to Vermont-based People Concerned About Chloramine.
"Without a more detailed study of the matter it is not possible to say this definitively, but it is plausible that something about the treatment change has caused this.
"Water chemistry is complicated and sometimes produces unexpected and untoward results. The complaints are notice to look into the matter."
Such chemistry may have affected water supplies in Los Altos, where lead content is regularly tested. Following the introduction of chloramine, water in several homes was found to contain lead levels over the public safety limit, possibly due to the way chloraminated tap water reacts with the lead-soldered plumbing in older homes.
Greg Hosfeldt, business manager of the Mountain View Public Works Department, said 24 random water samples were taken from Mountain View homes and wells after the switch to chloramine in 2004. Lead levels were not found to be over the maximum level, he said. The city is slated to test its water again in September.
More information can be found at http://www.chloramine.org .
Posted by Elizabeth F Cole MD,
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2007 at 7:58 pm
Agree chlorine is a better water disinfectant in general at this time. (However, chloramine is said to of greater efficacy in situations of gross septic contamination on an emergency level.) As for the cancer threats from the trihalomethanes austensibly caused by chlorine, chloramine itself has been reported by worthy scientists to produce them in several sites in US and this depends on the geologic substrate/native flora there where native water is susceptable before it meets the local municipality. Regarding damage to pipe structures in homes and public buildings, it is known that chloramine can cause copper pitting within pipes, leaking of water into the structure, subsequent mold damage to the buildings, each of which is unique and poorly understood by most owners. With certainty, some individuals have respiratory, eye, and skin sensitivity to chloramine. There are complex reasons why, individual's susceptablilty as well as chemical alterations able to affect populations by area. I am not sure what else results during the future, but reality is, that something we don't know is happening and that research funds for these studies is not is on the web. Ask questions of it. (Osha, also a fed govt agency did report that chloramine is one of the most frequent causes of industrial accidents, janitors for instance.) Formidable to the health of all populations individually and culturally is chloramine's capability of releasing lead from anywhere along the entire pipeline from the municipal water supplier, meters,especially in one's own home, workplace, recreation area. Lead leaching from pipes, water meters, plumbing in the building is most dangerous,least known of all, and depends upon multiple factors to detect, use of proper testing techniques at multiple outlets in homes. Water fountains, especially at playgrounds, schools, and other public facilities receiving attention have been found all over the US to cause elevated lead levels in users. Home damage repair is not paid for by the EPA! or your municpality,some munipalities have not tested accurately even about release of lead though their own systems. And there have been many instances of false testing, con artist testing. Aging pipes, their connectors, even "new" ones,in spite of laws forbidding their use can release unacceptable levels of lead and copper, depending on their location within buildings, how much water passes though vs lying stagnant, temperature, and other factors. Yes, use your search engine, and find out that the EPA has lied to the public, still thinks of blaming lead paint and gasoline, that lead poisoning in children is from kids eating dirt (!)especially those with lower income and social status. And it has steadfastly insisted blood lead levels acceptable far higher than the best science insists. EPA never wavering, no response. Again, industry through government wins over science. Children, developing humans, certainly are damaged by lead more than adults, but the effects on adults are known but largely ignored...re heart, blood pressure, liver, and other organ systems including the most sensitive, the nervous system, intellect, the most important factor in our culture. Even adults lose IQ from lead ingestion. Aquaria have lost valuable remnants of extinct species by changing water to chloraminating sources. When any other animal is killed by any given substance, you'd better know what you are doing, LEARN, RESEARCH, insist. Search on the web and you will find the best scientific arguments possible,just ask the questiond, but not from information given out by the the EPA. This is a very very important issue. chlorine and ammonia are produced by the oil industrials. And know, If you want it changed, it will cost local taxpayers a lot of money to have it changed with the changes required within your local water facility equipment, they people you pay your water bill to. Expect that, and accept it. The changeover back to chlorine can be quite difficult for the first while . It is not easy.
I think it is time to stop the EPA from requiring use of chloramine, allow localities to educate themseleves and decide, knowing that it is not a free ride and that changeover must be done carefully.
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