Do we really need copper and zinc water purifiers?

RO water purifiers are present in almost every home. But, have we ever wondered who invented RO water purification? A French physicist, Jean Antonie Nollet, invented reverse osmosis as a water purification technology in 1748. However, the RO water purifying machines are recent inventions.

India had its first RO water purifier in 1999 when Kent introduced their first product. Since then, the water purifier has seen tremendous improvements, with the latest fad being zinc and copper infusion in drinking water.

Remember Madhuri Dixit playing the mother and daughter dual role in the Aquaguard ad extolling the benefits of zinc and copper in drinking water.

So the question is, ‘Do we need copper and zinc water purifiers?’ Read on to know the answer.

Zinc and Copper Water Purification Technology

If you read the product manuals carefully, you will notice that zinc and copper water purifiers infuse copper and zinc ions in RO purified water. So, the water is already filtered, and copper and zinc are value additions.

Secondly, what is the need for adding copper and zinc? It is necessary because the RO water purification process removes essential minerals from the source water, besides eliminating TDS.

The primary demerit of RO water purification technology is that it removes all essential minerals with a molecular weight of more than 20. It includes calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and many more. Hence, water purifier manufacturers introduce remedial measures like TDS controllers, Mineral enhancers, and other technologies to replenish these lost essential minerals.

Copper and Zinc in water

Copper and zinc infusion is a continuation of these value additions. But, is copper and zinc necessary because our diet should be sufficient to include the RDA for copper and zinc?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Copper and Zinc

The National Institutes of Health has recommended the following dietary allowances for zinc.

AgeMalesFemalesPregnancyLactation
Up to six months2 mg2 mg  
Seven to 12 months3 mg3 mg  
One to three years3 mg3 mg  
Four to eight years5 mg5 mg  
Nine to 13 years8 mg8 mg  
14 to 18 years11 mg9 mg12 mg13 mg
19 years and above11 mg8 mg11 mg12 mg

Here are the corresponding figures for copper.

AgeMalesFemalesPregnancyLactation
Up to six months200 mcg200 mcg  
Seven to 12 months200 mcg200 mcg  
One to three years340 mcg340 mcg  
Four to eight years440 mcg440 mcg  
Nine to 13 years700 mcg700 mcg  
14 to 18 years890 mcg890 mcg1000 mcg1000 mcg
19 years and above900 mcg900 mcg1300 mcg1300 mcg

The average daily intake of copper and zinc from our diet is around 97% to 98% of the RDA. Hence, there is no requirement for any additional copper or zinc through other means.

Zinc and copper are present in almost all vegetables, fruits, meat, chocolates, dry fruits, cereals, cream, and milk.

Secondly, WHO has certified that drinking water with TDS levels up to 500 ppm is safe. Copper and zinc are usually added through the TDS controllers and mineral enhancers. Therefore, any extra addition through copper enrichers or separate cartridges is not necessary. Consuming more than the recommended dietary allowance can cause copper toxicity and adverse health effects.

Read: is RO Water Purifier required in India

Copper Toxicity – What is it?

Continuous exposure to high levels of copper can lead to liver and gastrointestinal damage. Besides, the side effects of excessive copper consumption are symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Research has shown that copper toxicity is generally observed that copper toxicity occurs in people who consume water with high copper levels. It can be because of excessive leaching of copper from copper pipes. Copper alloys in water distribution systems also allow high leaching of copper in drinking water.

The USEPA has recommended that the upper limit for copper in public water distribution systems is 1.3 mg/liter. Nevertheless, copper water purifier manufacturers claim that their products strictly adhere to USEPA-recommended upper limits. They might be correct, but one should also consider the copper and zinc intake through food before consuming copper water.

Who needs copper and zinc intake through water more?

Generally, copper deficiency is uncommon in humans. Since it is required in traces, our diet and supplements should suffice to provide the RDA for copper. However, vegans need zinc intake more than non-vegetarians because vegans consume legumes and whole grains containing phytates that inhibit zinc absorption. On the other hand, non-vegetarians have meat that is high in bioavailable zinc.

Pregnant and lactating women require more copper and zinc intake than regular individuals. But, doctors usually prescribe these supplements in tablets and tonics. Therefore, additional consumption of copper and zinc is not essential.

Our opinion – Do we need copper and zinc water purifiers?

Copper and zinc water purifiers infuse copper and zinc ions into the RO purified water using electromechanical processes. The copper ions do not leach naturally. So, there is no method to determine whether the leaching is adequate.

People can argue that storing water in copper vessels presents the same problem. However, you can discard the copper water stored in containers if it has been stored for more than 14 to 16 hours. The Aquaguard Copper and Zinc water purifier does not offer any option to consume RO purified water without copper and zinc infusion. In contrast, the Pureit Copper water purifier offers two dispensing options, with or without copper enrichment.

We do not need additional copper and zinc infusion in water through copper and zinc water purifiers because,

  • Firstly, we can obtain the recommended dietary requirement of copper and zinc through food and other supplements.   
  • Secondly, all copper and zinc water purifiers do not provide the option of consuming water without copper/zinc infusion.
  • Thirdly, the copper and zinc enhancers in these water purifiers are inbuilt attachments. They are not available separately on the market. So, there can be a question mark about replacing these attachments. In addition, Aquaguard has clearly stated that the spare cartridges are unavailable presently. Fourthly, HUL claims its Pureit copper water purifiers feature an automatic copper cleansing feature to ensure regular copper infusion.
  • RO purified water treated with mineral enhancers, or TDS controllers, does not need a separate copper and zinc infusion attachment.
  • Finally, the copper and zinc infusion is available in real time. So, you cannot benefit from copper and zinc-infused water without electricity.

Hence, we conclude that copper and zinc water purifiers are sales gimmicks to promote their products. The utility value is negligible.

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