The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: Is purified water dangerous or hungry?

A: Now let me tell you of two oft-mentioned risks involving purified water.

The first is that you should not drink purified water because the "water is so pure that it osmotically disrupts (explodes) the cells in your throat?"

Snicker snicker.

Let's just analyze this for a moment, shall we?

According to this hypothesis, the cells in your throat are so sensitive to osmotic pressures that even a slight deviation in concentration of impurities from "drinking water" (whatever that is) will pop your cells. Ah, but do your cells shrivel into destruction if you drink something highly concentrated in salts, like sweet-and-sour soup? Have you ever heard of anyone being admitted to the hospital because of "ruptured throat cell syndrome?" Even on a particularly gritty episode of "House?"

No, you haven't, have you?

Snicker snicker.

The second story you will hear about is that purified water, lacking in some residual dissolved molecules, is somehow particularly corrosive because it desperately wants some molecules to dissolve.

This hypothesis, that purified water is ultra-corrosive to pipes (for example), is often called "Hungry Water."

Now, before I go on about this, I must warn you. Humans are really weird about water. There are all these crazy stories and theories about it. For example, I just googled "hungry water" and found an authoritative-looking web page talking about water. It was written, supposedly, by an M.D. And since it was talking about health effects, the author's "M.D." should surely trump my measly "Ph.D." But here is what Dr. M.D. said...

"Spin. Water molecules spin in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. This influences the water's effect on the human body. The spin should be clockwise. When it is reversed, the water pulls minerals from the body and disrupts normal mineral metabolism. From what I have read, the problem with reverse osmosis water is that the spin of the water is disrupted by the plastic membrane, and this cannot be corrected by adding minerals, boiling the water or other simple means."


Not really knowing the answer to this hungry water thing, I started asking a bunch of chemists and biochemists friends. Being a geek has the advantage that, whatever field of science you want to know about, you always know geek specialists in that field. And this is what I found out.

In industrial settings, something called "ultra-pure" water can, supposedly, have "hungry" qualities. But ultra-pure water is stuff that is thousands of times purer than what you get from RO units or distillation devices.

But even in the realm of ultra-pure water, this whole hungry water thing is heavily blown out of proportion. I kind of got laughed at, just asking about it.

So if you're really sure that "hungry water" is something real, you had better steer me towards a real analysis, not some whacko web site written by a lame, mail-order M.D.

Page citations: Rice, B.A. 2006a; personal observation.

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Revised: January 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005