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Is Reverse Osmosis Water Safe?

Before investing in a reverse osmosis water system many people wonder, “is drinking reverse osmosis water bad for you?”. The debate over the safety of reverse osmosis water stems primarily from the belief that demineralized water poses a health risk. To help shed light on the answer to this belief we’ll outline how reverse osmosis water treatment works, what it removes, and what the impact of reverse osmosis water on your health might be.

How Does Reverse Osmosis Work?

Reverse osmosis water purification is one of the most popular methods of water purification today. Reverse osmosis is not only critical to a number of industries, including electronics manufacturing, agriculture, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and the food and beverage industry, but it is also an important residential water purification technique.

In reverse osmosis systems, a water supply containing unwanted contaminants is forced at high pressure through a specialized membrane. The membrane in a reverse osmosis system has tiny pores. The pores in the membrane allow water molecules to pass but not larger contaminants. 

The drinking water produced by reverse osmosis contains very few contaminants, while the water on the contaminated side of the barrier containing concentrated levels of contaminants is flushed down the drain. In short, reverse osmosis water treatment produces clean, safe drinking water without the use of chlorine or other cleansing agents commonly found in municipally purified water. 

What Contaminants Does Reverse Osmosis Remove?

There are many water purification methods you can use in your home, including filtration using activated carbon, distillation, and reverse osmosis. Ion-exchange units are also used to remove hard minerals from water. Each of these purification methods has advantages and disadvantages, and none of them will remove all contaminants contained in water.

Compared to other filtration methods, a residential reverse osmosis water filter can remove a wider range of commonly found contaminants. Additionally, the best under sink reverse osmosis systems incorporate a carbon post-filter that removes certain contaminants that reverse osmosis systems aren’t as effective against. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), disinfectants, and their byproducts. 

By layering purification methods, the best reverse osmosis filtration systems remove the widest spectrum of contaminants possible. If you are not sure is reverse osmosis safe to drink, with reverse osmosis water you will be exposed to fewer contaminants than drinking unfiltered tap water.

Reverse osmosis itself is effective at removing or reducing the following contaminants commonly found in tap water:

  • Protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
  • Bacteria including Salmonella, Shigella, and coliforms such as E. coli.
  • Viruses including Hepatitis A, Norovirus, and Rotavirus.
  • Heavy metals like copper, lead, and arsenic.
  • Hard minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
  • The water additive fluoride.

Reverse osmosis systems are capable of removing many more contaminants as well. Many reverse osmosis systems rate their filtration capability by expressing the reduction in total dissolved solids (TDS) the system is capable of providing. The best under sink reverse osmosis systems will reduce TDS by 93 – 97%.

Safety Concerns for Reverse Osmosis Water

At a minimum, reverse osmosis water has been filtered through a membrane that captures most of the dissolved solids and microbes in the water. If your reverse osmosis system has a carbon post-filter, any volatile organic compounds, disinfectants, disinfectant byproducts, and other substances which give water a bad taste and odor have been removed in the filtration process as well.

What is left is water with fewer contaminants than the tap water piped into your home. For those wondering, “is reverse osmosis water bad?”, the answer is, reverse osmosis water is actually far better than tap water. By removing a wide range of contaminants, a reverse osmosis water filter can limit your exposure to contaminants currently in your water and safeguard against any future rise in contaminants.

The core criticism leveled at reverse osmosis water is that it has been demineralized. Alongside the removal of minerals, reverse osmosis also removes the water additive fluoride which is added to water to strengthen teeth. If you are asking yourself, “what is demineralized water?”, the answer is simply water with dissolved minerals and salts removed. This softens the water, while also slightly altering the taste.

The removal of minerals from water is far less of a health concern in a developed country like the United States than it is in other parts of the world. In the United States, most people get the required minerals from their diet alone. In other parts of the world, individuals battling food insecurity and an inadequate diet may see a benefit from the mineral content in hard water. In the United States, a healthy adult with a balanced diet should not notice any negative side effects from the removal of trace hard minerals from water.

Final Thoughts

The short answer to the question, “is reverse osmosis water safe?” is that reverse osmosis water is safe to drink. Though reverse osmosis removes hard minerals from water, it also removes a wide range of other contaminants which can have a negative health impact. Exposure to common contaminants found in tap water around the United States, such as heavy metals, industrial chemicals, solvents, and pesticides poses a far greater risk to most people living in the United States.

Reverse osmosis systems are ideal for providing clean, filtered drinking water in a residential setting. Reverse osmosis systems are small enough to be installed under a sink, yet powerful enough to remove up to 97% of TDS in tap water. When comparing reverse osmosis vs distilled water or other water purification methods, reverse osmosis filtration emerges as more cost-effective and convenient.

If you aren’t sure whether a reverse osmosis system is right for you, consider starting with a water test. A water test will let you know what contaminants are currently in your tap water, which can guide you towards the most effective home filtration system for you. Our expert staff at Rayne Water can help you schedule a water test with a Rayne Water technician, and help outline reverse osmosis system options available to you. To learn more, please contact Rayne Water today.

Sources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/home-water-treatment/household_water_treatment.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/home-water-treatment/water-filters/step2.html
  3. https://www.labconco.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-ro-and-di-water-pur
  4. https://www.livescience.com/41510-what-is-distilled-water.html