Reverse osmosis system or simply RO systems are intended for the purification of water by removing harmful contaminants and chemicals. RO systems are equipped with a semi-permeable membrane which is used to filter out the contaminants from the water.
The primary working principle of a reverse osmosis system is to pass water with a high pressure through the semi-permeable membrane. As the water passes through the membrane, it filters out impurities like chlorine, salt, dirt, amongst other contaminants.
In fact, reverse osmosis systems are so efficient that they can also eliminate microorganisms from your water. Furthermore, based on the type of RO filter you have, it can remove 90 – 99% of the contaminants from your water, leaving you with pure water.
Since reverse osmosis systems are so efficient, you may wonder, does reverse osmosis remove boron? Let’s dig in and find out more about this.
What Will You Learn:
Before we get into whether reverse osmosis removes boron, let’s look into what boron is and whether or not it needs to be removed from your water.
What Is Boron?
Boron is a chemical element and exists naturally. Ideally, it is found as a combination of oxygen with other natural chemical elements forming boron-based compounds (boric acid, boron oxide and borax).
The most commonly found form of boron is borates which are present in different parts of the nature, including:
However, the concentration of boron in natural elements can vary depending on where it is found.
Naturally existing boron can be in the following concentrations:
In terms of the usefulness of boron, it can be used for different applications like making glass, ceramic products, soaps, fire retardants, detergents, bleaches, and industrial pesticides amongst others.
However, it can also get into your drinking water like other chemicals like Mercury, Chlorine. Calcium, Manganese, and Iron in your water. Boron can enter your water through industrial wastewaters, rock & soil weathering, municipal wastes, and from soil run-off.
Ideally, most people consume up to 1.2 mg of boron on average from foods. Similarly, drinking water also contains 0.1 to 0.3 mg per liter of boron. These are considered the safe levels of boron and if were to be increased, it could lead to many health complications.
Since boron can enter your water through different sources as mentioned above, it may expose you to a greater amount of boron if the water is not processed prior to consumption.
If left untreated, your water may contain up to 2 mg of boron per liter which is harmful for your health. Water containing higher levels of boron is not safe for preparing food or drinking as it can adversely affect your health.
In the worst cases, it may also lead to an increased risk of unborn babies. Due to the health complications associated with boron, your water needs to be tested and processed thoroughly to eliminate or lower the concentrations of boron.
There are different means of lowering the concentration of boron including water filters and purifiers. But not all of them can get the job done. There are specific filters for removal of boron, which we will get into the later section of this article.
What Is Boron Nitride?
When boron chemically reacts with nitrogen, it creates boron nitrides (BN). Similar to boron, boron nitrides also have wide applications and can be used for differing purposes including:
However, boron nitrides are only used for industrial applications and is rarely found in water. Your drinking water only contains boron, which is what we will focus on.
Now, let’s reiterate our initial question, does reverse osmosis remove boron? Let’s find out.
Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Boron?
Simply put, no! Traditional osmosis systems do not remove boron despite the reverse osmosis (RO) system’s strong and efficient semi-permeable membranes. Standard or traditional RO systems have a hard time lowering or removing boron from your drinking water.
Standard reverse osmosis systems are intended for the removal of dissolved solids from your water. Their primary principle is to use polyamide chemistry at the active layer of the reverse osmosis membrane.
Now considering boron, it exists in two forms in water including borate and boric acid. Boric acid is essentially the predominant form of boron and is typically found in the seawaters. Unfortunately, it is very small and is classified as nonpolar molecules.
Since RO systems incorporate polyamide chemistry, it fails to remove these small nonpolar molecules, which is what RO system manufacturers are struggling with.
On the other hand, similar to boric acid, borate cannot be removed from water as well, even with RO systems. The reason behind this is that borate is naturally negatively charged. Due to the negative charge on borate, it is rejected by the standard membranes in your RO system.
However, boron rejection by reverse osmosis membranes is common and can easily be controlled.
Boron removal from water requires different types of membranes to be installed in your standard RO systems which can help lower the levels of boron in your water. There are different membranes or filters that you can readily get based on where you are staying at.
How To Remove Boron From Drinking Water?
Most of our drinking water comes from wells, and other source like ground water or surface water amongst others. Ground water and wells can contain Boron, Arsenic, Glyphosate, Dioxane and other chemicals that would either have to be reduced to safe levels or removed.
Related Article: Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Dioxane?
If you’re wondering how to remove boron from well water or other sources of water, you will have to equip specialized filters in your RO systems.
Ideally, different manufacturers produce such membranes. The most popular ones include LG’s Chem NanoH2O reverse osmosis membranes which are found to be super-efficient in terms of removing boron from your drinking water.
Similarly, the operating conditions of your RO system can also influence the concentrations of boron, borates, and boric acid in your water. Ideally, the pH and ionic strength in your RO system can impact the presence of boron and borates in your water.
Higher pH levels and ionic strengths will lead to high fractions of borate in the feed water. As a result of these higher fractions of borates, it will be removed from your water more efficiently using the same RO system.
Now, if you have a standard RO system, there are certain additional polishing steps that you can take for the removal of boron from your water. You will be able to do this better if you have the option to adjust the pH levels of your RO system.
On a side note, equipping specialized membranes can require additional periodic maintenance of your RO system. Furthermore, it will also increase the purchase and operating costs of your RO system as well.
Alternatively, there are other means of removing boron from water such as ion exchange, which can help in lowering the concentrations of boron in drinking water.
How To Remove Boron From Irrigation Water?
Just like higher levels of boron in drinking water affects your health, it can also affect your plants’ life as well. It can also impact your overall crop production, so ultimately you will either have to completely remove it from your irrigation water or simply lower its concentration.
Boron removal from irrigation water requires you to add certain chemicals to your main water source which is used for irrigation purpose.
For efficient removal of boron from irrigation water, you will have to change the pH of water, add the following chemicals to your primary source of water:
The longer the reaction time of these compounds in the water, the lower the concentration of Boron will be in your irrigation water -thus ultimately making it safe for your plants and overall crop production.
How Long Does Boron Stay In The Body?
Most of the ingested boron is water based. It only stays in your body for over 24 hours or less depending on the consumption levels.
Boron is found in different foods and beverages. However, in most cases, these are found in the form of inorganic borates, mono/di sugar boratesters. Fortunately, these are under safe levels and not harmful to your health.
When you consume boron from your food, it gets hydrolyzed and changes to boric acid. This process occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. Over 85 to 90% of this gets absorbed in the body, most of which is found in bones, nails, and hair. It is also found in the blood and urine as well.
Why We Need To Remove Boron From Water?
While boron is safe as long as it is under the recommended levels of 1 – 13 mg of boron consumption per day. But, in greater consumption of boron, it would lead to toxicity.
Boron toxicity has the following symptoms.
In major cases of boron consumption, it may lead to extreme conditions like:
Due to the aforementioned reasons, you need to remove boron entirely or ensure it is within the safe levels before you drink your water.