The following contains background information related to common drinking water sources of contamination, acute and chronic health problems, health advisories, and aesthetic problems associated with drinking water. We have put this page together in order to inform the public on a variety of topics and help them along with their testing needs. The Water Research Center is an outreach programs developed by Mr. Brian Oram.
Contaminants removed from water by reverse osmosis
Reverse osmosis (RO) systems frequently are used to reduce the levels of total dissolved solids and suspended particles within water. These systems remove a variety of ions and metals as well as certain organic, inorganic and bacterial contaminants. Some contaminants treated effectively by RO are listed in Table I. This table is not an exhaustive list of contaminants that RO may remove, but rather lists those for which RO can be a practical treatment method for treating household drinking water. Most RO systems also include activated carbon (AC) filters and the carbon provides the treatment for some contaminants, as noted in the table. The RO membrane alone may not be an effective method for total removal of these contaminants, but a properly designed system may be effective in reducing these contaminants to safe levels. Contaminant removal by the system may vary depending on operating conditions and equipment. Refer to the equipment section of this guide for further explanation of activated carbon filters combined with RO.
1. Prefilter - Typically a particle filter to remove particles, rust, and other debris.
There are some contaminants not removed from water by RO systems. These include dissolved gases such as hydrogen sulfide, a common nuisance contaminant with characteristic rotten egg odor, which passes through the RO membrane. The RO membrane's efficiency in reducing the amount of contaminant in the water depends on the contaminant concentration, chemical properties of the contaminant, the membrane type and condition, and operating conditions.
Regardless of the water treatment system being considered, the water should first be tested to determine which contaminants are present. Public water systems are routinely tested for contaminants. If contaminants exceed the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), the water must be treated to correct the problem and/or another source of water suitable for drinking must be provided. In contrast, monitoring private water systems is the
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