Health Risks of Reverse Osmosis Water for our pets


We all want clean water for ourselves and our pets.  Many homes have turned to reverse osmosis systems, or to purchasing bottled water. Below are the findings from a long study conducted by the World Health Organization from the 1970’s through the early 2000’s, concerning the effects of drinking demineralized and reverse osmosis water.  


Our pets are even smaller than humans so the systemic effects of the low minerals are quicker and more severe.  


Many reverse osmosis systems remove the good with the bad. Iron, calcium, and manganese, are a few of the beneficial chemicals that may be removed, depending on your system. 
Additionally, when used for cooking, demineralized water was found to cause substantial losses of all essential elements from foods such as vegetables, meat and cereals. Such losses may reach up to 60 percent for magnesium and calcium, 66 percent for copper, 70 percent for manganese, and 86 percent for cobalt. In contrast, when hard water (not treated with reverse osmosis) is used for cooking, there is minimal loss of these essential elements. 


At the Cat and Bird Clinic we can detect if a family is giving their bird reverse osmosis water because the bird develops a heart murmur and arrhythmia.  With mineral and electrolyte supplementation we can often reverse the heart changes in a few months.


Calcium and magnesium are both essential elements. Calcium is a substantial component of bones and teeth. In addition, it plays a role in neuromuscular excitability, the proper function of the conducting myocardial system, heart and muscle contractility, intracellular information transmission and the coagulability of blood. Magnesium plays an important role as a cofactor and activator of more than 300 enzymatic reactions including glycolysis, ATP metabolism, transport of elements such as sodium, potassium, and calcium through membranes, synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, neuromuscular excitability and muscle contraction.


Since the early 1960's, epidemiological studies in many countries all over the world have reported that water low in calcium and magnesium is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

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World Health Organization issues reverse osmosis water warning
After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies concerning demineralized or reverse osmosis water, the World Health Organization released a report stating that such water "has a definite adverse influence on the animal and human organism."


Consumers have been so concerned with removing as many things from water as possible that they have forgotten to ask if the resulting water actually improves health or causes health problems. It's assumed that no toxins equals better health, but there is simply more to healthful water than a lack of toxins, as the World Health Organization clearly points out.


What is alarming is that consuming reverse osmosis water for even just a few months can create serious side effects. "The effects of most chemicals commonly found in drinking water manifest themselves after long exposure." However "only a few months exposure may be sufficient 'consumption time effects' from water that is low in magnesium and/or calcium. Illustrative of such short-term exposures are cases in the Czech and Slovak populations who began using reverse osmosis-based systems for final treatment of drinking water at their home taps in 2000-2002. Within several weeks or months various health complaints suggestive of acute magnesium (and possibly calcium) deficiency were reported. Among these complaints were cardiovascular disorders, tiredness, weakness or muscular cramps." 


Because reverse osmosis water doesn't have enough minerals, when it is consumed, it also leaches minerals from the body. This means that the minerals being consumed in food and vitamins are being urinated away. Less minerals consumed plus more minerals being excreted equals serious negative side effects and big health problems. In a scientific study performed to see if minerals consumed in food can make up for the lack of minerals in reverse osmosis water, scientists concluded that "reduced mineral intake from water was not compensated by their diets...low-mineral water was responsible for an increased elimination of minerals from the body."


"It has been adequately demonstrated that consuming water of low mineral content has a negative effect on homeostasis mechanisms, compromising the mineral and water metabolism in the body." Consumption of reverse osmosis water "leads to the dilution of the electrolytes dissolved in the body water. Inadequate body water redistribution between compartments may compromise the function of vital organs. Side effects at the very beginning of this condition include tiredness, weakness and headache; more severe symptoms are muscular cramps and impaired heart rate."  


Additional information from the World Health Organization report
Recent studies also suggest that the intake of water low in calcium (reverse osmosis water), may be associated with higher risk of fracture in children (Verd Vallespir et al. 1992), certain neurodegenerative diseases (Jacqmin et al. 1994), pre-term birth and low weight at birth (Yang et al. 2002) and some types of cancer (Yang et al. 1997; Yang et al. 1998). In addition to an increased risk of sudden death (Eisenberg 1992; Bernardi et al. 1995; Garzon and Eisenberg 1998), the intake of water low in magnesium seems to be associated with a higher risk of motor neuronal disease (Iwami et al. 1994), pregnancy disorders (so-called preeclampsia) (Melles & Kiss 1992), and some types of cancer (Yang et al. 1999a; Yang et al. 1999b; Yang et al. 1999c; Yang et al. 2000).
In a multi-city study, women living in cities with low-mineral water more frequently showed cardiovascular changes (as measured by ECG), higher blood pressure, somatoform autonomic dysfunctions, headache, dizziness, and osteoporosis (as measured by X-ray absorptiometry) compared to those of cities with higher mineral content water.
© World Health Organization 2005