Water Education - Water and Health

Water Softeners and Your Health

Do Water Softeners Pose Health Risks?

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For well water, a way to estimate the amount of sodium added by salt-based water softening is to base the average of well water at 278 mg/L (although the variation can be wide, from 46 to 1,219 mg/L, and that it is estimated that 17% of households having well water have sodium levels exceeding 400 mg/L). As a general rule, the harder the water, the higher the sodium level.

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Researchers publishing in the Archives of Internal Medicine said that the amount of sodium in softened water can vary. Indeed, this variability is dependent upon water hardness (Yarows et al., January 1997, "Sodium concentration of water from softeners").

According to a researcher writing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association ("Sodium content of potable water: dietary significance," by G.C. Korch, January 1986), Americans are taking in more sodium than required for physiologic functions and that "the contribution of drinking water as a source of sodium may be overlooked" (emphasis added by the author of this Freedrinkingwater.com article). Scientists estimate that water accounts for approximately 10% of a person's daily sodium intake, and hence people should know the sodium content of their water supply. For people who are on sodium-restricted diets, they must avoid drinking softened water using traditional salt-based softening technology or just tap water (approximately 42% of the United States water supplies have excess sodium). For people on the sodium-restricted diet, they should drink purified, filtered water. For hypertensive patients, bottled water may not even be safe from sodium—it is well known that about 25 percent of all bottled water come straight from the tap but they are sold as pristine "spring water"!

We suggest that people bottle their own filtered, purified water at home using a reverse-osmosis (RO) water-purification system so that they know exactly what kind of water they're putting into their bottles. For hypertensive people or simply people concerned with their sodium intake, drinking filtered, purified water is best.

Using Potassium Instead of Sodium in Softening Water

Although the water-softening industry has claimed that the added sodium during water-softening is so insignificant that it causes no health concern, physicians and some consumer groups have advised people to use the switch to potassium-based water softening. But this is hard to put into reality yet since using potassium chloride (KCl) instead of sodium-chloride salt (NaCl) can cost three to four times more.

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