Human beings need clean drinking water. It’s essential to our basic survival.
Though the United States has some of the safest tap water in the world, violations of the country’s water quality standards happen more frequently than we may like to believe.
A couple years back, the Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] reported that “nearly 77 million Americans got drinking water from systems that violated federal protections in 2015, and more than a third of this number relied on systems that did not comply with standards put in place to protect health.”
In the same article, the NRDC also stated that these numbers likely under-represent the severity of the problem. Contaminants that may not be effectively filtered include: lead, atrazine, pathogens, chlorine, arsenic, nitrates, radioactive contaminants, vinyl chloride, perchlorate and pharmaceuticals.
Because the regulatory challenges to upholding the nation’s water safety standards will likely take a while to resolve, investing in an at-home water filtration system might be a good idea. Here are some tips on picking the right system for you.
First, you may want to check your location’s water content on your local water company’s website. Another way to get that information is through Environmental Working Group’s [EWG] Tap Water Database. EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group based in Washington D.C. dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.
After determining what contaminants may be in your water, you can choose the best water filter to remove them.
Pitcher Water Filters
These usually remove pollutants by using granulated activated carbon that is good for reducing chlorine but may not be as effective against heavy metals, fluoride and chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal processes. While you can buy a high-quality version that has a more sophisticated filtration system, these generally don’t remove the worst pollutants.
Because the filters require frequent replacement, they may not be the most economical option. Also included in this category are the sink attachments that use the same type of filter.
Popular brands include:
- Brita Pitchers
- Brita Faucet Filtration System
- PUR Ultimate Pitcher
- PUR Faucet Filtration System
- Waterdrop Facet Filtration System
Reverse Osmosis [RO]
University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart gives a great explanation of the RO process: “Reverse osmosis systems use pressure to push water through tiny pores, to create “pure water.” In the process, chemicals, bacteria, and minerals are filtered through different membranes and carbon filters.”
The process does a great job of removing fluoride, pesticides and herbicides, as well as bacteria and parasites. However, it also strips water of iron, calcium, manganese and other elements that may be good for you.
While the process curbs the purchase of bottled water, which helps to ease the accumulation of plastics waste, it also wastes a ton of water. According to Dr. Gerhart, between 2 to 5 gallons of water are wasted for every gallon of purified water produced.
Just producing one gallon of purified water can also be an incredibly time consuming process. Some other cons to RO is that the costly filters need regular replacement and that it doesn’t reduce the chemicals that interfere with hormonal processes.
Popular brands include:
- APEC Alkaline Mineral Portable Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System PH+
- Countertop Portable Universal 5-stage Reverse Osmosis
Solid Block Carbon Filters
These are typically more effective, though more expensive, than their granulated activated carbon counterparts because the carbon forms into blocks under high pressure, creating more surface area. They’re often considered the best option for removing herbicides, pesticides and other volatile organic compounds.
Additionally, they remove bacteria, heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites and parasites. Because the system is based on using gravity, it can work without electricity or running water. Portable options are also available for traveling.
Though it can take up more space than other options, the filters tend to last significantly longer than other options. This option also doesn’t strip water of its beneficial naturally occurring minerals.
- Berkey BK4X2-BB Big Berkey Stainless Steel Water Filtration System
- iSpring WGB21B 2-Stage Whole House Water
Under Counter Multi-Stage Filters
This is often deemed the most effective water-filtration system. The number of stages of filtering involved depends on the type of multi-stage filter you choose, but they generally both remove pollutants and add beneficial minerals back in. They remove the widest range of contaminants including: fluoride, lead, chlorine, chromium-6, nitrates, pesticides, pharmaceutical residues, water-borne illness and more.
It’s more expensive than other options and requires some plumbing work because it has to be installed under the sink, but it’s widely regarded as a great option.
- APEC 5-Stage
- Aqua Pure Filters (recommended by Public Goods members)
- Environmental Water Systems (recommended by Public Goods members)
- Home Master TMAFC-ERP
- iSpring RCC7AK 6-Stage
When it comes to choosing a water filter, there are as many factors to consider as there are options. For some folks, tap water is good to go. But for others a $300 multi-stage system is necessary before the water feels drinkable.
What factors are you considering when choosing a water filtration system? And are you using anything now? If so, what product?
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