Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Radium from Drinking Water?

Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Radium from Drinking Water?

Concerned about the levels of radium in your drinking water?

Radium is a naturally occurring element that is radioactive and can be found in soil, water, and air. Long-term consumption of even low doses of radium can cause cancer, birth defects, and kidney damage.

Fortunately, reverse osmosis can remove radium from drinking water very effectively. Reverse osmosis systems have been shown to remove 87 to 98% of the radium in drinking water. RO can be used to achieve similar results for alpha particle activity, total beta activity, and photon emitter activity.

Our article will explain everything you need to know about reverse osmosis and how it can remove radium from your water. We also explore other methods that can be used, such as ion exchange and distillation.

Continue reading to learn more about removing radium from drinking water.

What is Radiumradionuclides in water

Radium (Ra) is a chemical element in the alkaline earth family. Radium-226, the most common isotope, is a highly radioactive substance. Radium was discovered in 1898 and was used to make luminous paint for watches and switches. Today, it is used in nuclear medicine, but it has few other practical applications. Radium is not required for healthy living and there is no known safe level of exposure, unlike other elements.

How does radium get in my water

Radium is a naturally occurring element. Uranium and thorium decay to form radium. Radium is present in virtually all rocks, and it can dissolve easily into water under acidic (low pH) conditions.

Concentrations of radium are generally higher in groundwater (wells, aquifers) than surface water (lakes, rivers, and streams). Radium concentrations can be high in deep aquifers where the water is slow moving and stays in contact with the rock for an extended period.

A new study revealed that more than half of Americans could be consuming water tainted with radium. It is estimated that as many as 170 million people across the country are exposed to unsafe levels of radium every day.

The oil and gas industry is another major source for radiological pollution around the world. Surface water usually has very little radium, but groundwater can have high concentrations of this element depending on the local geology. Some of the deep bedrock aquifers that are used for drinking water have Ra-226 and Ra-228 levels that exceed recommended health standards.

Health concerns with radium

Radium is a known carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer. Studies have shown that it can cause bone cancer, as well as other forms of cancer. Exposure to radium is linked to an increased risk of birth defects and miscarriages. Radium has no safe level of exposure, so it is essential to remove it from your drinking water.

Drinking water standard for radiumRadium in drinking water

Radium is a naturally occurring element that is present in many water supplies. The USEPA has established a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for radium in drinking water of 5 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). This limit is set to protect public health. If a public water supply exceeds this limit, the supplier must notify the customers.



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Reverse Osmosisreverse osmosis filter system

Reverse osmosis is a widely used treatment method that reliably removes a wide range of contaminants from drinking water. It is effective at reducing the concentration of many impurities such as lead, PFAS, and heavy metals.

How RO works

Reverse osmosis systems use a semipermeable membrane to filter impurities from water. The membrane allows water to flow through while trapping dissolved solids and other contaminants. The system applies pressure to the water, forcing it through the membrane and removing any impurities.

The membrane is constructed of a semi-permeable polymer that is spirally wrapped around a central tube. The water is forced through the membrane, and the impurities are filtered out. The clean water is then collected on the other side of the membrane, while the contaminants are retained in a concentrated brine. This brine waste is then flushed down the drain.

Reverse osmosis systems can be used to treat both municipal water supplies and private wells. This treatment technology is effective at removing a wide range of contaminants, including salt, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, and more.

RO system components

Reverse osmosis systems typically consist of three modules:

1.   pretreatment

2.   reverse osmosis membrane

3.   post-filter

RO Activated Carbon FilterPretreatment protects the membrane from fouling and damage caused by chlorine. It usually consists of a sediment filter and an activated carbon filter. The sediment filter removes particles such as dirt and rust, while the activated carbon filter removes chlorine and other chemicals.

The reverse osmosis membrane is the heart of the system. It’s a thin film composite (TFC) that remove contaminants from water. The TFC is made of several layers of material, including a semi-permeable membrane.

The post-filter is the final stage of filtration that removes any remaining impurities from the water. This is typically a second carbon filter that ensures the water is safe to drink and tastes great. It also includes a particle filter to remove any remaining turbidity.

Some RO systems include a water storage tank, which stores the clean water until you’re ready to use it. This is desirable because the flow rate through the filter is slow. Having a storage tank ensures you can fill a glass or a cooking pot quickly with clean water without having to wait.

How Well Does Reverse Osmosis Treat Radium

Reverse osmosis is very effective at treating water contaminated with radium. It can remove 95% or more of this element. Some RO filters are rated to remove 99.9% of radium and uranium.

How much radium can reverse osmosis remove

Reverse osmosis is an effective way to remove radium from your drinking water.

Many reverse osmosis systems are certified by NSF to reduce concentrations of radium 226 and radium 228. These isotopes are the byproducts of uranium decay. Although systems may be certified to only reduce radium, they could also potentially be effective at reducing uranium.

The table below lists the reverse osmosis filters that have been tested and certified by NSF to remove radium from drinking water.

Reverse Osmosis Filters Certified to Remove Radium 226 and Radium 228
Brand Model Number Flow Rate (gpm)
A.O. Smith Water Treatment AORO-50 11
Aqua Systems AQPC-35 11
Aqua Systems AQPC-435 11
Aquasana, Inc. OptimH2O™ AQ-RO-3 13.32
Aquion, Inc. Rainsoft Ultrefiner II-FMV-BNFP 24.22
Atlantic Filter Corporation HR-35-TFC-4W 11
Clover Co., Ltd. AQVR5 23.39
Clover Co., Ltd. CLVR5 23.39
EcoWater Systems LLC ERO-175 18.46
EcoWater Systems LLC ERO-385 15.75
EcoWater Systems LLC ERO-385-BN 15.75
Everpure LLC Conserv 75E 50.51
Everpure LLC Conserv 75S 50.51
Everpure LLC LVRO-75HE 14.66
Franklin Water Treatment, LLC Puronics Micromax 6000 TFC 8.28
Franklin Water Treatment, LLC Puronics Micromax 6500 TFC 8.28
GE Appliances, a Haier Company GNRQ18NBN 14.76
GE Appliances, a Haier Company GXRQ18NBN 14.76
Lancaster Water Treatment Brita Pro BPLRO-35 11
Lancaster Water Treatment CRO-350 11
Lancaster Water Treatment PRO-50 11

Challenges with radium and RO

One significant issue with reverse osmosis is the brine that is produced. Brine is the concentrated waste left behind after water has been filtered. This wastewater typically contains all of the contaminants that were removed from the water, including radium.

If you have a septic system, disposing of concentrated radium brine into the subsurface can contaminate groundwater. To prevent the release of this hazardous compound into the environment, the brine must be disposed of properly. This can be costly and may require special permits.

Factors to Consider with Reverse Osmosis

If you’re concerned about the quality of your drinking water, a reverse osmosis filter may be a good option for you. RO filters are able to remove a variety of contaminants from your water, including lead, mercury, and chlorine. However, there are a few factors you should consider.

Installation cost of reverse osmosis

Depending on your home’s plumbing, installing an RO system can be relatively simple or quite complex. If your home has a standard under-sink configuration, you can likely install the filter yourself. However, if your home has multiple faucets or you need to drill new holes for the filter, it’s best to hire a professional.

A whole-house RO system can be expensive to install, especially if you have to modify your home’s plumbing. An under-sink unit, on the other hand, can often be installed by a good do-it-yourselfer for a reasonable cost. Each home is unique, so you’ll have to determine which system is right for you.

Maintenance cost

RO filters have sediment filters and activated carbon filters that have to be replaced. A sediment filter will usually last for about six months before it needs to be replaced. Carbon filters have to be replaced every 3 to 6 months, depending on how much water you use and the amount of chlorine in your water.

The cost of replacement filters can vary, but you can expect to spend around $60 to as much as $200 per year on them. Whole house filters are 3 to 4 times as much as under-sink filters.

While this may seem like a lot, it’s important to remember that RO filters can remove a variety of contaminants from your water, making it safer and healthier to drink.

Whole-house versus under-sink unitsWhole House RO System Diagram

Another thing to consider is how much water you’ll need to filter. RO filters are typically sized according to the number of gallons they can process per day. If you have a large family or use a lot of water for cooking and bathing, you may need a larger filter.

Reverse osmosis systems are available in a wide range of sizes, from small countertop units to large industrial systems. They can be used for point-of-use (POU) applications, such as filtering water for a kitchen sink, or point-of-entry (POE) applications, such as filtering all the water coming into your home.

Deciding which type of RO system is right for you depends on a number of factors, including your budget, the size of your home, and your water quality. Read my article on under-sink RO systems and whole-house RO systems for a detailed explanation.

NSF certification

Reverse osmosis filter manufacturers often make claims about how well their units remove contaminants. The best way to be certain of their claims is to look for units that have been certified by NSF International.

NSF is an independent organization that tests and certifies products to ensure they meet strict standards for quality and safety. If a product has been certified by NSF, you can be confident it will perform as advertised.

The applicable standard for point-of-use reverse osmosis systems is NSF/ANSI 58. It covers the following parameters:

  • Materials of construction and leaching of harmful substances
  • Mechanical integrity
  • Removal of total dissolved solids (TDS)
  • Efficiency rating
  • Recovery rating
  • Contaminant concentration reduction

Treatment Methods that Remove Radium

In addition to reverse osmosis filtration, there are a few other methods that can be used to remove radium from drinking water, including:

  1. Ion exchange
  2. Distillation
  3. Lime softening

Ion exchange for removal of radium

Cationic ion exchange media do a nice job of removing radium and uranium from drinking water. One benefit of ion exchange is that it does not remove beneficial minerals like calcium or magnesium.

Water is pumped through a vessel filled with the resin. Radium is adsorbed onto the media and treated water is discharged. Eventually, the ion exchange media becomes saturated with radium, and it can no longer remove any more of the contaminant.

Once the resin is “spent”, it can be regenerated by flushing the bed with a concentrated solution of salt. This releases the radium, which is then flushed out of the system. The media can be reused after regeneration.

Distillation to remove radium

Distillation is very effective at removing radium from water. The treatment efficiency approaches 100% removal.

Distillation works by heating water to the boiling point. The water vapor is then condensed and collected. Because radium is not volatile, it is not vaporized and stays behind in the boiler.

Lime softening for radium treatment

Lime softening can be used to remove radium from drinking water. This treatment method is really only suitable for municipal water treatment because of its complexity.

Under-sink reverse osmosis filter

Here is the under-sink reverse osmosis filter I installed in my kitchen. You may interested in something similar for your home.

Check Pricing on Amazon


Does activated carbon remove radium

Activated carbon filters are ineffective at removing radium from drinking water. The following types of carbon filters are not effective at removing radium:

  • pitcher filters (Brita, Pur, ZeroWater)
  • refrigerator filters
  • faucet filters

Does boiling water remove radium

Boiling water does not remove radium from water. Radium is not volatile, so it does not evaporate as the water temperature rises. It is an element, so it is not destroyed or broken down by the heat of boiling. In fact, boiling will increase the concentration of radium because the water evaporates leaving behind radium.

What is the best way to remove radium from drinking water?

Reverse osmosis filtration is the most effective way to remove radium from drinking water. RO systems have been shown to remove 87-98% of radium from water. Other treatment methods, such as ion exchange and distillation also remove radium from water.

Does a water softener remove radium

Water softeners do not remove radium from drinking water. Water softeners are designed to remove hardness minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from water. These systems will not remove radium.


Radium is a naturally occurring element that has been linked to health concerns. If you are looking for a way to remove radium from your drinking water, reverse osmosis is a highly effective and reliable option. There are some challenges with removing radium using this method, but it is still one of the best options available.

Whole-house systems offer the best protection against radium and other contaminants, but they can be expensive to install. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, under-sink reverse osmosis systems are a good choice – just make sure it’s NSF certified to ensure that it meets quality standards. Whatever treatment method you choose, be sure to have your water tested regularly to ensure that it remains safe and healthy to drink.


Boch Richard

Richard Boch is a chemical engineer responsible for designing water filtration systems for industrial and residential customers. He has more than 20 years of experience with ion exchange, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Richard's expertise has made him a go-to source for municipalities and businesses looking to improve their water quality. When he's not working, Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children. You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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