A woman recently contacted us with the following situation:

My reverse osmosis water filter made me sick since April 2013- current. I have been unable to work or leave the house due to explosive diahreah, weakness, headaches and other stomach issues. I have documented water samples stating the RO water has 89 fecal coliform bacteria colonies and 682 coliform colonies. The water direct from the faucet had 0 coliform colonies. Please contact me regarding case.

Note: For privacy reasons we will keep all aspects of her identity concealed and so we don’t get sued by the water filter manufacturer, we will keep their model number and brand name concealed, as well. Additionally, we would like to state for the record that reverse osmosis water filter systems normally do not cause the kinds of problems experienced by our reader

Then why bother writing this article w/ no specifics?

We opted to write about this poor woman’s condition so we could illustrate a few takeaway points from our conversation with our reader that that some folks out there really ought to hear.

  1. Whenever faced with a situation like the one described above, do what she did and get the water tested before and after filtration. In this case the fact that her filtered water contained coliform bacteria and her raw source water did not pointed the finger of blame directly at the water filter as the source of the bacteria.
  2. If ever you suddenly find yourself ill right after beginning the use a of a water filtration product STOP USING THAT PRODUCT IMMEDIATELY and see if the symptoms improve. If they do, then definitely get the water filter checked out for defects.
  3. RO water, by default, has no disinfecting properties left in it after passing through the membrane(s) and other filters so if you do not use a large amount of water make sure you do not invest in a reverse osmosis unit that has a huge holding tank… because the least little bit of bacteria will thrive in the absence of any disinfectants.

    Or, if the idea of having water in reserve appeals to you, then you may want to invest in an ultraviolet water filter as an add-on for your reverse osmosis unit. Ultraviolet water filter will prevent bacteria, if present, from multiplying in your purified water holding tank.

  4. Always, always, always use extreme care and caution when installing a reverse osmosis or any type of water filter in your home. That means make sure you have cleaned the work area ahead of time and have washed your hands, as well. The introduction of any dirt, dust, grime, slime, or debris into the water filter’s system may have disastrous effects.

    Please feel free to refer back to our unfortunate reader’s comment about explosive diarrhea, weakness, headaches and other stomach issues if you don’t believe us.

    Oh, and if for one minute you think that a water filter manufacturer or distributor will admit to wrongdoing (i.e. improperly sterilized components), then please keep the following words (which we sent to our reader) in mind: “Based on previous cases we have read involving ANY type of filter and alleged bacterial contamination coming from the filter… a manufacturer almost ALWAYS has the following defense: ‘The customer contaminated the unit prior to (or during) installation and the bacteria grew in the system since that time.’ True or not, proving them incorrect, and therefore negligent in some way, becomes incredibly difficult — if not darn near impossible.”

  5. Should you EVER find your self feeling as bad as our reader, PLEASE understand that the possible consequences of bacterial contamination may include not only the symptoms she described, but also more unpleasant ones like… death.

    Definitely seek medical attention should you feel as bad as our reader did and don’t rely on over-the-counter medications to solve your problems. In many cases over-the-counter medications for the symptoms associated with conditions caused by foreign bacteria in a person’s system may not pack the medicinal punch required to fully rid a person of infectious bacteria.

  6. After installing a water filter one should always perform occasional testing on the water produced by the filter to make certain it still functions as intended. Remember: Some unwanted and potentially harmful contaminants (arsenic is a great example) have no discernible taste or smell so if present in your source water, and your water filter develops problems, you will not know unless you test the water.

In conclusion we would like to thank our reader for allowing us to hear of her troubles and also tell the rest of you that the manufacturer of her filter agreed to take the unit back and refund her money per the satisfaction guarantee issued when she purchased the unit.

Moral of the story?

In this case testing of the reader’s water allowed her to determine the potential cause of her health-related issues. We believe if more people took just a few minutes every once in a while to test the quality of their drinking water… a good number of people would realize that their water, although seemingly tasty and delicious, could get even better with just a little help from a water filter.

We ALSO believe that the folks who perform regular water testing, and find nothing wrong, get a certain, and quite invaluable, peace of mind.