Are water purifiers safe?

At a time when nearly every soul on earth is exposed to polluted water, water purifiers have become a must-have household item. But even so, there remains quite a degree of skepticism regarding the safety of these water purifiers. Is there a possibility that the purified water we drink is less safe than the raw tap water we are discouraged from drinking? 

In examining this, we shall consider the five main types of water purifiers and highlight their corresponding safety concerns. These are:

i) Reverse Osmosis water purifiers

ii) Ultraviolet water purifiers

iii) UltraFiltration water purifiers

iv) Activated Carbon water purifiers

v) Sediment filters

1. Reverse Osmosis Water purifiers

This is undoubtedly the most popular water purifier. Many people praise it for its ability to turn contaminated water into a 100 % pure water. However, the very name “Reverse Osmosis” serves as the chief bone of contention among critics and the less educated.

Given that Reverse Osmosis is a scientific process, critics label RO water as “scientifically-altered” water. That almost sounds like “genetically modified” – and you well know how people dread genetic modification.

To clear the air, understand that RO water purifiers make use of a semi-permeable membrane. This allows water molecules to pass through but blocks the passage of impurities such as fluoride, lead, arsenic, nitrites, nitrates, chlorine, sulfates, bicarbonate, chromium, radium, barium, selenium, micro-organisms, and many others. 

So what are we left with? Pure water without sufficient amounts of essential minerals. Should this worry you? Not at all!

It is a matter of compromise. You don’t want to risk taking in poisonous substances present in raw water just so you can benefit from the essential minerals in water. As a matter of fact, the amount of contaminants far outweigh the amount of minerals in raw water.    

It is for this reason that a number of water purifier manufacturers add the re-mineralization cartridge to the water purifier. At least this partially solves the problem. To fully make up for the missed minerals, you are strongly advised to  eat foods rich in the essential minerals found in water. And you may still take it further by regularly taking appropriate supplements.

2. UV Water Purifiers

These put to play the power of UltraViolet rays on germs. The norm is to allow raw water to pass around a lamp that emits UV rays. All bacteria and viruses are killed in this process – but not removed from the water. Let not that alarm you. They won’t harm you when you drink them dead.

The major safety concern with UV water purifiers is that they don’t get rid of chemicals like arsenic, lead, fluoride, chlorine, and the rest. As such, they are not as effective as the RO water purifiers. You may want to limit their use to water that has been proven to contain negligent amounts of such contaminants. You can easily tell this by knowing the Total Dissolved Solids figure for the water.

Additionally, make sure that the amount of undissolved solids is as little as possible. The UV rays will not effectively penetrate the water if it is muddy or highly turbid.   

3. UF water purifiers

This water filtration technology is somewhat similar to the Reverse Osmosis process, only that the UF membrane has bigger pores than the RO membrane, and therefore does not get rid of impurities with very small molecules. You can however rest assured that all bacteria and viruses will be filtered out. 

For this reason, you need to limit their use to areas with a reputation of minimal chemical contamination. Also, UF water purifiers won’t significantly reduce the amount of Total Dissolved Solids in water. So ensure that the water you want to treat is not that hard.

4. Activated Carbon water purifiers

Activated carbon majorly purifies water by adsorption – which simply means sticking to a surface. As water passes through a chamber filled with the activated carbon, contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides stick to the surface of the activated carbon. Additionally, activated carbon removes foul smell and bad taste from water.     

One downside with activated carbon water filters is that they are very poor in removing bacteria and viruses. To make matters worse, you are faced with the menace of bacterial growth on the surface of the activated carbon. If you are not careful, you may end up drinking water with lots of disease-causing organisms. 

5. Sediment water purifiers

Similar to the activated carbon filters, these do not get rid of viruses, bacteria and majority of the dissolved solids. The filtration technology used is quite basic, to say the least. Water is passed through a chamber filled with cotton and polyester fibers. This is able to trap a considerable amount of undissolved solids. 

The resultant water is not entirely safe to drink. A good practise is to use the sediment filter for making raw water less turbid before effectively purifying the water using other methods like Reverse osmosis or Ultra Violet purification.

So, are water purifiers safe?

To sum it up, it depends on the type of water purifier you are using. Not one water filtration method can be labelled 100% safe. What you need to do is choose a water purifier that suits the quality of water in your locality. If in doubt, go for the RO water purifiers and save yourself the worry of whether the filtered water is safe enough.