Reverse osmosis (RO) is the process of making water clean by forcing impure water through a semipermeable membrane. Many consumers are familiar with the effectiveness of residential reverse osmosis systems for removing undesirable minerals and chemicals from home water supplies. They appreciate the benefits of purer water that tastes better, makes crystal-like ice cubes, and improves the flavor of all beverages. A buyer of an RO system may not even be aware that the process also removes potentially harmful microorganisms from the family’s drinking water supply.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out in its fact sheet “Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use” that reverse osmosis is an effective method for eliminating bacteria, viruses, and protozoa from water. In fact, the CDC gives RO systems the highest ranking of very high for their effectiveness at eliminating these three undesirables from a home’s water system.
Specifically, the fact sheet names giardia, salmonella, norovirus, and rotavirus as being filtered out by reverse osmosis. While a consumer may be installing a reverse osmosis system for the tangible, visible benefits of clearer, better-tasting water, the additional benefit of removing harmful microorganisms should not be overlooked. For a family with at-risk members such as the very young, very old, or those with compromised immune systems, these health benefits from an RO system are especially valuable.