Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Hormones?

Reverse osmosis systems are a popular and increasingly affordable way to purify water at home, but can they also remove hormones?

Water filtration systems that use high-pressure membranes, like reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration, can effectively remove more than 95% of hormones from drinking water.

In this article, we’ll explain why we should be concerned about hormones in our drinking water and focus on how reverse osmosis systems can effectively remove them from our taps.

The Hormone Conundrum

Back in the day, our drinking water used to spread diseases and cause major epidemics. While most developed countries are now pretty safe from those harmful contaminants that quickly make us sick, there are still other chemicals that can affect our health, and we don’t have proper protection against them yet.

These chemicals can come from all sorts of things like drugs and can end up in our freshwater sources, including the hormones and medicines we use. Even bottled water can have small amounts of chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors, that mess with our hormones.

Hormones, both naturally occurring and synthetic, have increasingly found their way into our water supply through various sources such as medications, personal care products, and agricultural practices. This has raised concerns about the potential long-term health effects associated with hormone exposure, including disrupted endocrine function and reproductive disorders.

Do Hormones Exist in Drinking Water?

Hormones are substances that control things like growth and reproduction in our bodies. These organic chemicals, like insulin and estrogen, are made and stored in our endocrine glands and travel through our bodies via the bloodstream. But there are also natural and man-made chemicals that act like hormones or interfere with our body’s hormones. These are called endocrine disruptors, which have recently been recognized as emerging environmental contaminants. 

Studies have found that drinking water contains hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, as well as other disruptive chemicals like pharmaceuticals (from caffeine to painkillers), plasticizers, and pesticides.

Where Do Hormones in Water Come From?

These chemicals come from everyday products we use, like birth control pills, cosmetics, and even detergents, and they end up in groundwater through things like septic systems and wastewater treatment plants.

For example, estrogens are used in fertilizers and given to animals, and they also get flushed down the toilet along with urine from pregnant women and birth control users.

Water Treatment Plants and Hormone Removal

These hormones and endocrine disruptors take a long time to break down in the environment, especially when they’re found in high levels, which is often the case. Hormone concentrations can range from 3.0 nanograms per litre (ng/L) to 570 ng/L, with the highest being for cholesterol.

Because of this, many water treatment plants fail to remove them from our drinking water. However, many water treatment plants use reverse osmosis to get rid of all sorts of organic contaminants with a molecular weight above 100.

Health Effects of Hormones in Drinking Water

There’s limited scientific information about the potential health problems from daily exposure to low levels of these disruptive chemicals in our tap water. To encourage more investigation and regulation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently added nine hormones to their list of potentially harmful contaminants.

However, we do know that these disruptive chemicals can harm animals.

That’s why many scientists believe that even small doses can mess up our body’s natural hormone balance and cause health problems in humans.

The effects would probably depend on factors like age, how long we’re exposed, and the amount we’re exposed to. For example, young children and people with existing medical conditions would be more sensitive to even the slightest changes in their hormone levels.

Plus, people may be exposed to multiple hormones at the same time, which raises concerns about how these different chemicals might interact, even in small amounts.

Scott Dye from the Sierra Club’s Water Sentinels program says, “The biggest concern is the combined effect of all these chemicals together.”

We don’t know much about the effects of constantly drinking water with hormones in it. We need more research to figure out how to filter out these specific chemicals, but luckily, reverse osmosis systems can help us fight against the organic contaminants in our tap water once again.

How Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Hormones?

When it comes to purifying water and removing a wide array of contaminants, reverse osmosis (RO) systems are considered highly effective. RO systems utilize a semipermeable membrane that acts as a barrier to impurities, including hormones, while allowing only pure water molecules to pass through. This makes RO systems a reliable choice for ensuring the removal of hormones from your drinking water.

The Science Behind RO Systems

Reverse osmosis systems employ a combination of physical filtration and chemical separation processes to achieve high-quality water purification. The semipermeable membrane used in RO systems consists of tiny pores, usually less than a nanometer in size, which effectively trap hormone molecules and prevent their passage through the membrane. This meticulous filtration process guarantees a significant reduction in hormone concentrations, ensuring the safety of the water you consume.

Water filtration systems that use high-pressure membranes, like reverse osmosis and nanofiltration, are the best at removing various compounds from drinking water.

These systems are very effective and often have additional filters to remove sediments and activated carbon filters on both sides of the membrane.

Reverse Osmosis: Best option

The best way to remove hormones is to combine reverse osmosis with activated carbon filters before and after the process. Research shows that RO and nanofiltration can remove more than 95% of hormones like 17β-estradiol (E2) and testosterone.

So, if you have a system like this just for your drinking water, that’s usually enough since water used for other purposes doesn’t usually end up in our bodies.

The only downside to this method is that the water that gets rejected during the filtration process is flushed away from the house. This means the contaminants that didn’t get removed end up back in the water cycle.

That’s also why experts strongly advise against flushing unused medications down the toilet or sink because it can contaminate our waterways.

How Can I Find Out If My Water Has Hormones?

If your tap water comes from a city supply or a municipal well, you can contact your water provider and ask for the latest reports on water contaminants.

If you have a private well, it’s your responsibility to ensure the water quality, so you should get it tested regularly for hormones and other disruptive chemicals that often seep into groundwater.

Testing for drugs, hormones, and toxins is important based on what we’ve discussed in this article.

You can also opt to send a water sample for advanced laboratory drug and pharmaceuticals water testing at places like

Does Boiling Water Remove Hormones?

Boiling water is a good way to kill disease-causing germs like viruses, bacteria, and parasites. It can also partially remove some plant-based hormones (like those found in soy), but its removal rates for hormones and other endocrine disruptors are generally low and unpredictable.

As mentioned before, the only truly reliable method of removing hormones from drinking water is to use a reverse osmosis system with activated carbon filters.

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr is an Earth Scientist who specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water drives her to breakdown the science to provide easy to understand information that everyone can read.

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