Our city switched to chloramines two years ago, which I found out when discussing our skin issues with friends. Son has had eczema since birth, which has erupted into what looks like heat rash on the lightest parts of his body. Telling him to take yet another shower doesn’t seem to help. Baby powder does seem to help in the summer. We’ve all had terrible dandruff, brittle hair, and dry skin (sheboric dermatitis). I have low iron, which has developed into anemia despite huge supplements and dietary changes of heme and non-heme sources. It seems like my iron levels plummeted as soon as the water changed. When I showered at my mother’s house (well water), my skin was noticeably less blotchy and my hair looked a lot less frizzy than it does when I step out of my own shower. My home was built in 68 and has mostly copper piping. I’m not sure if the chloramines are pulling copper, lead, or ammonia, but something is definitely going on with my water.
Can I urge my city to cover a water testing on my taps at their expense? Is that reasonable considering the recent changes to our water? I’m used to calling and writing things down for my son’s doctor. What kind of test would you recommend for my situation? There is a lot going on and we are simply living with it as it escalates. —Karen
First of all, I am sorry to hear about your problems. It’s never fun to go through these things. Secondly, I am not a doctor, but I do have 45 years of experience in treating the water of hundreds of people who have had severe skin problems. Every situation is different, but I can tell you that we have had a great deal of success in solving these type of problems.
Let me start by explaining why most cities are using chloramine. Before the advent of chlorination, cholera and typhoid were some of the leading causes of death around the world. With the advent of chlorination, these plagues were eradicated. Recently, it has been found that by adding ammonia to chlorine (which creates chloramine) the chlorine is stabilized so that last longer and is more effective and of course, this makes it more economical. The use of chloramine is not likely to go away anytime soon because of it cost savings and effectiveness as a disinfectant.
You can ask the city for a water test, but they offer a very narrow test and what good would it do? At some point, you will need to realize that you are empowered to solve the problem. People who have skin problems are typically sensitive to chemicals and other things in the water. I have found that removing the chloramine, chemicals and pesticides as well as softening the water usually causes skin problems to recede or go away completely.
Calcium and magnesium in water is what makes it hard. That hardness combines with soap to form curd which literally plugs the pores of your skin. Some people think that the slick feeling you get with soft water is a bad thing, when in reality, it is a good thing, because you have rinsed all the soap curd along with calcium and magnesium from your pores, and your skin is actually really clean. Clean skin is healthier than skin with pores plugged. Your body’s natural oil gives it a “slick” feeling in the absence of calcium and magnesium in the water.
Many people who use skin lotion find that they use less or none at all with soft water.
One final story: Over 25 years ago, I recommended a water softener and carbon filter to a Peruvian woman who had “scab-like” eczema all over her body (well, at least the part I could see). She had it installed and within two weeks, her skin was almost perfectly clear. Again, I cannot speak to each situation, but taking physical and chemical irritants out of the water certainly can’t hurt.
I might mention that we now have what we call a “Hybrid Water Softener” called the Fusion NLT Hybrid which softens hard water while also removing the chlorine, chloramine, chemicals, pesticides and other contaminants.
By the way, no salt free system can do this because it does not remove the hard minerals from the water.