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The Hazards & Benefits of Water Ionizers

Over the past few years, water ionizers have become a common kitchen appliance, offering the consumer the ability to create of a range of pH waters for a variety of applications. Two main uses include high alkaline pH levels, used for drinking, and low acidic pH levels, used for cleaning. Almost all water ionizers available for sale, both counter top units and under sink faucet units, achieve upwards of pH 10 and as low as pH 3.

Given these high and low pH ranges, while considering under and over hydration issues, let's look at the areas that a water ionizer may pose problems.

Hydration and Electrolyte Balance - Increased Risks for Elderly

The intake of water and electrolytes is inseparable from the ingestion of nutrients by normal (food) or artificial means (supplements). Recent reports have agreed in criticizing the poor standards of practice and of training in the management of fluid and electrolyte balance, resulting in a large amount of avoidable morbidity, particularly in the elderly who are more vulnerable to fluctuations in body composition. Recent findings show how aging is associated with impaired physiological reserve and a reduced ability to compensate for fluctuations in environmental conditions. These changes include reduced cardiac and renal reserve, making the elderly more vulnerable to changes in water and electrolyte gain or loss with a resulting increase in morbidity and mortality. The ability to cope with errors in prescriptionsExit Site is correspondingly diminished.

Dehydration is a common problem in nursing homes and in the general community.

Due often to failures in detection and appropriate management the elderly are chronically dehydrated, called Hyperatraemia. In many cases, the cause is iatrogenic due to diuretics or pharmaceutical drugs which impair the intake of food and fluid. Or a reduced sense of thirst for drinking water, that accompanies the aging process.

Over Hydration and Excessive Salt in Hospital settings

Salt and water overload, particularly in hospital patients, is also common and results in impaired recovery from surgery and increased perioperative mortality and morbidity. Hyponatraemia, is also an important clinical problem in hospital and the community. Pubmed:15090900Exit Site

Normal aging is associated with changes in body composition, thirst perception, kidney function, and the hormonal regulatory systems involved in the maintenance of drinking water and sodium balance. Pubmed:10441799Exit Site

Fluid & Electrolyte Balance

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine and body fluids. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body's blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. Nat. Institute of HealthExit Site

The intake of water and minerals (electrolytes) are necessary for the normal functioning of the body's cells. The body needs large quantities of calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium. These minerals are called macro minerals. Bone, muscle, heart, and brain function depends on these minerals.

The body needs small quantities of chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. These minerals are called trace minerals. Except for chromium, all trace minerals are incorporated into enzymes or hormones required in body processes (metabolism). Chromium helps the body keep blood sugar levels normal. All trace minerals are harmful if too much is ingested. Merck.comExit Site overview of mineral metabolism.

Water Ionizers Retain Some Alkaline Electrolyte Minerals

List of alkaline (electrolyte) minerals that have undergone carbon filtration and ionization (electrolyzed reduced water) treatment.


Test data provided by Entech Analytical, now owned by AccutestExit Site (.pdf)

Sulphate, although a useful trace mineral, will create a strong rotten egg taste if present in the source water, requiring additional filtering for water ionizers.

The brain function in the elderly can benefit from increased water intake Pubmed:15210289Exit Site, while adding calcium and magnesium to diet promises benefits, such as good bone health. Pubmed:19685438,19658275Exit Site.

However, if the water ionizer is allowing excessive sodium to pass through, then the resulting potential can be Hyperatraemia. If the water ionizer is allowing excessive potassium to pass through, then resulting potential can be Hyperkalemia. Whole house water softeners can introduce sodium and/or potassium to the source water. If that softened water is run through a water ionizer, then some of the sodium or potassium (mineral salt softening treatments) is passed into the drinking water.

What Causes Hyperkalemia - Elevated Levels of Potassium?

Increased intake of potassium can cause hyperkalemia if kidney function is poor.

Source: umm.eduExit Site

Source: nih.govExit Site

People who have kidney dysfunctions that impair their ability to excrete potassium or who are on certain types of drug therapies - such as ACE inhibitors - should be under the supervision of a medical professional, who may recommend consuming less than the recommended 4.7 grams (potassium) per day. nationalacademies.orgExit Site

Water Ionizers - Mom & Baby Mice - Heart Issues

Although researchers do not draw a one to one relationship between human and mouse studies, they do however use mammal research as indicators to help create building blocks for emerging research models.

Newborn Mice

Newborn mice given pH 10 alkaline water grow significantly bigger and faster. Alkaline ionized water has substantial biological effects on postnatal growth, since intake of food and water and body weight of the offspring's increased and postnatal morphological development was also accelerated. Pubmed:7473891, 11201172Exit Site

The side effect of this significant newborn growth is Hyperkalemia, caused by excess potassium in the blood stream, resulting in heart muscle damage. Pubmed:9198011Exit Site

Other studies confirm necrosis of heart muscle tissue (myocardial lesions) in mice given strong alkaline ionized water. Pubmed:9524951Exit Site

Lactating Mother Mice

Calcium plays an important role in skeletal formation, it is tentatively concluded that the higher calcium concentration of alkaline ionized water enriched the mother, serum calcium which was transferred to the fetus through the placenta and to the offspring through the milk. Pubmed:9922938Exit Site

Adult Mice

More recent research shows healthy adult mice receiving benefits of ionized water as show in this study, "Electrolyzed hydrogen-saturated water for drinking use elicits an anti oxidative effect: a feeding test with rats." Pubmed:16244454Exit Site

Is it Possible to Overdose by Drinking To Much Water?

Although many more people die from not getting enough water, there only a few examples where getting to much water has shown to be life threatening.

Every hour, a healthy kidney at rest can excrete 800 to 1,000 milliliters, or 0.21 to 0.26 gallon, of water and therefore a person can drink water at a rate of 800 to 1,000 milliliters per hour without experiencing a net gain in water. If that same person is running a marathon, however, the stress of the situation will increase vasopressin levels, reducing the kidney's excretion capacity to as low as 100 milliliters per hour. Drinking 800 to 1,000 milliliters of water per hour under these conditions can potentially lead a net gain in water, even with considerable sweating.

While exercising, "you should balance what you're drinking with what you're sweating," and that includes sports drinks, which can also cause hyponatremia when consumed in excess, Verbalis advises. "If you're sweating 500 milliliters per hour, that is what you should be drinking."

Source: ScientificAmerican.comExit Site

Using a Water Ionizer in Hard Water Areas

Hard water requires more soap and synthetic detergents for home laundry and washing, and contributes to scaling in pipes and build-up on water surfaces. Hardness reflects the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water.

Water ionizers work to concentrate available calcium and magnesium making them prone to "cementing" when exposed to excessive alkaline mineral water. Generally, if the water measures above 300mg/ of calcium, then it's recommend to add a an anti-scaling filter that works to prevent alkaline minerals from sticking to contact surfaces.

Hard Water Map of the US

General guidelines for classification of waters are:

For more hard water information visit: USGS.govExit Site

Related Reading:

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Clean Drinking Water
Topics include filtration systems, mineral water and health affects.

Updated: Sept 16 2015