Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Lead from Drinking Water?

If you know how dangerous lead is to your body, you’ll try every means possible to ensure that your drinking water is free of this threat.

From delaying physical development to impairing brain development, heightening attention disorders, and reducing IQ, lead can cause a lot of health complications to your kids.

But then, how does lead end up in your drinking water? Does reverse osmosis remove lead from water? If so, how does it do it?

In this post, we discuss how effectively reverse osmosis eliminates lead from water. You’ll also learn how to protect your loved ones from the dangers of lead and more.

How Does Lead Get Into Your Drinking Water?

As a natural element existing in the earth’s crust, lead can be found in the air, water, and soil. If your water is excessively contaminated with lead, it’s from the soil or lead pipes.

When the pipes carrying water to your home begin to corrode, lead can enter your drinking water. Water with low mineral content or high acidity is corrosive to fixtures and pipes.

Does Reverse Osmosis Eliminate Lead from Drinking Water?

Although there are other ways of reducing lead (ion exchange, KDF, and activated carbon filters), reverse osmosis offers the most precise filtration. It effectively removes lead from your water supply.

As water passes through the RO membrane, almost all contaminants are removed from the water. It eliminates thousands of common and lesser-known pollutants from the water.

It also removes smells and enhances the taste of the water.

How Do Reverse Osmosis Systems Remove Lead?

RO systems have a semi-permeable membrane that eliminates hundreds of contaminants from the water as it pass through. The membrane features a pore size of 0.0001 microns, enough to block lead and other pollutants.

It is also important to note that the quality of raw water, water pressure, and solute concentration also affect the performance of the reverse osmosis membrane.

The systems also feature more than just the RO membrane; filter elements like the granular activated carbon, catalytic carbon, block carbon, and the KDF filter help remove lead from the water as well.

How Much Lead Does an RO System Remove?

Most RO systems eliminate more than 90% of lead from water. Some remove as much as 99% lead.

However, keep in mind that your water should have zero lead because lead is bioaccumulative and can cause serious health complications if you are exposed to it for a long time.

You need to get a system that removes the maximum amount of lead from your water. A slight difference in the percentage of removal means a lot.

Why is Lead Dangerous?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead poses a serious health threat. It can cause reduced fetus growth or premature birth in pregnant women.

Young children and infants are more affected by lead. This is mainly because the behavioral and physical effects of lead happen at lower exposure levels in kids.

A dose of lead that could have minimal effect on adults significantly affects children.

In kids, low exposure to lead can damage the central and peripheral nervous system, cause impaired hearing, learning disabilities, shorter stature, and impaired formation of blood cells.

In rare cases, (when taken for a long time), it can cause seizures, coma, and death.

Lead is harmful to adults as well. It leads to decreased kidney function, reproductive problems in men and women, and hypertension.

What Else Do RO Systems Remove?

Reverse osmosis eliminates different types of suspended and dissolved compounds in the water. It also removes microorganisms.

RO systems come with multiple pre-filters that get rid of larger particles to avoid damaging the RO membrane, which is the workhorse of the unit.

The membrane filters out 95 to 99.9% of organic and inorganic materials to produce RO water. To polish the water, post-filters come into play. They add the final touches to the water, making it healthy and suitable to drink.

Some of the contaminants removed by an RO system include: chlorine and chloramines, sodium, chromium, lead, copper, VOCs, arsenic, fluoride, radium, phosphorus, sulfate, pesticides/herbicides, bacteria, viruses and cysts.

How Can You Test Your Home Water for Lead?

Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Lead from Drinking Water

Now that you can’t smell, see, or taste lead in water, you can only determine whether it’s in your water by conducting some tests.

And although there are different tests to determine the risk, the most reliable way is to get the water tested by a certified laboratory. You’ll have to part with a few bucks, but it’s worth it.

The results will show you the exact concentration of lead in your water so you can find the best method to eradicate it.

If short on budget, get lead home water test strips and test the water from the comfort of your home.

The only downside of using strips is that they won’t show you the precise concentration of the lead. They also won’t detect other contaminants present in your water.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Lead in Your Drinking Water

  • Find out whether you have a lead supply line.

You just need to contact a licensed plumber or your water utility to determine if the pipe connecting your water to the main is made from lead.

  • Test your water

Contact a verified laboratory to get your water tested. This will help you know the lead levels in your water.

  • Run your water

Before drinking, flush the pipes by running the tap, doing laundry, taking a shower, or doing loads of dishes. The duration of time to run the water will mainly depend on whether your household has a lead service line or not.

  • Clean your aerator

Make it a habit of cleaning your faucet’s screen. Debris and lead can collect in the aerator. If lead particles are held in the aerator, lead can get into your drinking water.


Reverse osmosis can remove lead from your drinking water. Lead is very harmful to health, especially for kids, and taking measures to reduce exposure can improve the outcome.

Test your water just to ensure that your water is lead-free and keep your family safe from the negative impacts. Also, invest in a quality reverse osmosis system to ensure clean, safe, and healthy drinking water.

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