Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Lead From Water?

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Lead is a dangerous toxin that causes serious health complications, especially if it accumulates in the body for a long time. It can affect adults, pregnant women, unborn babies and infants.

This is why you do not want lead in your drinking water.

And now, to answer the question – Does reverse osmosis remove lead from water? Yes, it does. Reverse osmosis is one of the most effective methods of removing lead from water.

The process can remove up to 99% of lead from water. It is a better result than you can get from any other water treatment method.

How Does Lead Get into Your Drinking Water?

Although Environmental Protection Agency has come up with steps to reduce the exposure of lead in tap water, this toxic metal can still end up in your water.

Lead in water comes from lead service lines that connect your home to the main water line.

Additionally, even without a lead service line, your home could still have galvanized iron pipes, brass or chrome-plated faucets or other plumbing brazed with lead.

Lead can also enter your drinking water if corrosion occurs.

Corrosion is a chemical reaction that takes place in plumbing materials with lead. The reaction (wearing or dissolving of metal from the pipes or fixtures) occurs when the water has low mineral content.

The amount of lead that gets into the water depends on the following:

  • The temperature of the water
  • Acidity or alkalinity of the water
  • Amount of wear in the pipes and fixtures
  • Types and quantity of minerals in the water
  • Amount of lead your water comes into contact with
  • Duration the water stays in the pipes
  • Presence of scales in the pipes

How Can You Tell That Your Water Contains Lead?

Identifying lead in water might be a little tricky now that you cannot see, smell or taste it. Water comes from the faucet, already contaminated with lead.

So, how do you know there is lead in your drinking water?

First, knowing the age of your plumbing pipes comes in handy. You also need to know whether lead soldering was used with the plumbing fixtures like faucets.

The second and most sure way of telling whether there is lead in your water is through tests. Just visit a certified laboratory for a thorough test to clear your doubts.

You can also try a simple test by purchasing a test kit from your local home improvement at a small fee (usually $10 to $20).

How Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Lead from Water?

Reverse osmosis has a semi-permeable membrane that blocks most contaminants as water passes through. With a pore size of 0.0001 microns, the membrane rejects the larger lead molecules.

The blocked lead molecules are then flushed into the drain with wastewater.

Besides lead, reverse osmosis can also eliminate arsenic, iron, fluoride and mercury from your drinking water.

What are the dangers of drinking lead-contaminated water?

When taken for a prolonged period, lead can damage your health severely. It can cause brain disorders, damage your kidneys and destroy your red blood cells.

In young children, infants and unborn babies, lead poses health threats such as:

  • Delays in physical development
  • Reduced IQ
  • Impaired mental development
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention deficit disorder

To pregnant women, exposure to lead can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight or premature birth.

With such serious effects, you should not risk having lead in your drinking water.


Is reverse osmosis the only option for removing lead from water?

No. You can also successfully remove lead from your water using activated carbon filters and distillation.
The activated carbon filters adsorb lead from drinking water and traps them within the carbon pores. Only clean water passes through.
You should note that although quite effective, the surface of carbon filters becomes saturated with time. You thus need to replace them after some time to continue their effectiveness.
During distillation, water is heated to a boiling point, vaporized and then condensed. Contaminants like lead are left behind.
The process is also highly effective in removing chromium and other chemical impurities.

Does reverse osmosis remove all water contaminants?

Although reverse osmosis is the number one method for water treatment, the process does not remove all water contaminants.
It is ineffective against solvents, volatile organic compounds and chemicals like pesticides.

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Dr. Peter Gleick

Dr. Peter Gleick is an experienced water filtration engineer and technical writer for He is an expert in water purification and filtration, focusing on helping people get clean, safe, and healthy water for domestic use. He has more than 10 years of writing experience and has numerously contributed to leading publications in this field.

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