Studies show there may be dangerous compounds in your drinking water. in this article, we’ll examine what they are, how they get into our water supply, what the government is doing about it, and how you can protect yourself and your family.
Researchers say we’re supposed to drink 11 to 15 cups of water a day, depending on our age, weight, gender, and activity. The human body can last several weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Generally, an adult human needs between 2-3 quarts of water per day. We lose water through our breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements, so it’s important to continue to take in water throughout the day. A Texas woman drank two gallons in a short amount of time and died from water intoxication, so you can drink too much water. The body is made up of 50-75% water. Water forms the basis of blood, digestive juices, urine and perspiration, and is contained in lean muscle, fat and bones.
The more important questions are, where does this water come from, and is it really safe to drink? You get most of your water from drinking beverages, but food also contributes a small amount to your daily water intake. The water in your tap and foods can contain some unhealthy things you probably didn’t expect.
The water that flows through most American kitchen faucets is generally clean, clear, and safe. All public water systems are monitored for harmful substances including bacteria, viruses, pesticides, petroleum products, acids, and some metals. More recently, environmental advocates are increasingly concerned about chemicals from drugs, perfume, and sunscreens that wash off people’s skin that slip by public water filtration systems and well monitoring kits and end up in our drinking water. The truth is we may not know the consequences of any these chemical substances and how they are affecting our health until it’s too late.
Discoveries of health issues from tap water led to the Safe Drinking Water Act, passed in December 1974. Water utilities pushed back, citing the high cost of removing contaminants, and in 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking Water Act. The amendments basically gutted the law, making new regulation unlikely. America is still struggling with a dangerous divide between those who have access to safe and affordable drinking water and those who don’t.
Let’s look at all the potential problems with the water that comes into our homes, and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, just in case we find out in 20 years that this stuff is really bad for you.
DRINKING WATER PROBLEM #1: PFAS AND PFOA
In 2014, residents of Horsham Township, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, learned that their water had been contaminated with potentially toxic chemicals linked to an array of health problems, including learning delays in children and cancer. They sued the government.
A colon cancer diagnosis at age 30 came as a complete shock to a Satellite Beach, Florida radiation oncologist, who knew from experience such cancer rarely strikes people under 40. Her news arrived just 10 months after her best friend, a fellow high school graduate, lost her battle with breast cancer. Then she heard at least 20 others from her high school alumni had been diagnosed with cancer within a few years of each other.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a 246-square-mile United States military training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Between 1953 and 1987, two base wells supplied contaminated drinking water to children and military families, to the base hospital, and workers in their place of employment were contaminated with harmful chemicals known to cause fifteen different illnesses and medical conditions including several types of cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, and Parkinson’s disease.
The suspect in all these cases is a local military base dumping a concoction of toxic chemicals over decades that are now lurking underground in water tables or in the lakes and lagoons where kids play and fish. In all three cases, state and federal authorities are working to determine if the cancers are truly linked, or if it’s just a weird coincidence. One thing that’s common is all three cases had elevated levels of PFAS.
WHERE DOES PFAS COME FROM?
Experts suspect fire extinguishing foams containing fire-retardant PFAS used and dumped on military bases may have infiltrated the local water table. PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a chemical class that includes approximately 5,000 compounds that have been linked to cancer and learning delays in children. Used in numerous consumer products, the compounds are known as “forever chemicals” because the bonds that hold PFAS together don’t break down easily in the environment. We’re talking centuries before these compounds become inert.
PFAS were first developed in the 1940s and are used in many products across all industries due to their grease, water, and oil-repellent properties. Best known for their original use in producing the fluoropolymer Teflon and the stain-resistant coating Scotchgard, these chemicals are now used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products including clothing, furniture, carpeting, food packaging, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, and fire-fighting film-forming foam. Like petroleum and dry-cleaning solvent plumes, the compounds can migrate long distances in soils, and can turn up in groundwater at thousands of times the federal government’s current lifetime health advisory level for drinking water.
And once these compounds are in us, they don’t break down, and our bodies don’t know how to get rid of them, so the compounds build up in the body over time. The many ways they can enter the body complicates pinning down a “smoking gun” exposure. That includes drinking water, air, dust, consumer products, food such as fish and shellfish or food packaged in materials containing the compounds, such as popcorn, pizza boxes and fast-food containers. People also get exposed by touching carpets and other surfaces treated with PFAS stain-proofing compounds.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF PFAS EXPOSURE?
According to the CDC, scientific studies have shown that exposure to PFAS, like PFOA or PFOS, can be harmful to humans and animals. These health risks include:
- Developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations
- Testicular or kidney cancer
- Liver damage
- Immune effects including decreased antibody production and immunity
- Thyroid and cholesterol changes
But one of the most troubling routes to PFAS exposure is drinking water that has been contaminated by discharges from factories and other facilities. Researchers at Oregon State University found PFAS compounds in groundwater below two military bases years after the military stopped using firefighting foam there.
WHAT’S A SAFE LEVEL OF PFAS?
The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water in the U.S., has not set official limits on PFAS in bottled water. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water, also has not set official standards regarding PFAS. The EPA has issued “voluntary guidance” calling on water utilities to limit the presence of PFAS to 70 parts per trillion. For context, 1 part per trillion is the equivalent of one grain of sand in an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with sand.
Advocates and researchers support a 1 part-per-trillion limit for PFAS in drinking water, citing growing research linking even very small amounts to potential harm, not to mention the compounds’ persistence in the environment. Honestly, at this point, a PFAS limit of 1 PPT is probably unrealistic. Unfortunately, the damage has been done, and PFAS is very difficult to eliminate altogether without drastic and expensive environmental measures that most folks won’t want to pay higher taxes to achieve. In the meantime, we’re basically on our own and left with the responsibility of filtering PFAS from our own water. More on that later.
The Horsham Township, Pennsylvania couple alleged the Navy dumped thousands of gallons of firefighting foam, which contains PFAS, at their local base during exercises over many years. The couple claimed that tests of their private well found PFOA and PFOS levels of 298 ppt and 701 ppt, respectively—up to 10 times the EPA’s voluntary limit.
The Flint, Michigan water drinking crisis is another example of the dangers of PFOS and PFOA polluting drinking water. At its peak, in addition to ridiculously high levels of lead and bacteria, drinking water sources contained up to 1,309 ppt levels of PFOA, and 410 ppt of PFOS.
A few states have set PFAS limits below the EPA’s 70 ppt advisory. Vermont set a 20 ppt limit for five PFAS compounds combined, while New Hampshire passed 12 ppt limit on PFOA, and a 15 ppt limit on PFOS. Other states have proposed PFAS standards. Our home state of Florida set a combined PFAS/PFOS “advisory level” of .07 micrograms per liter, which is a very misleading way to state Florida doesn’t think PFAS is a big problem. In parts per trillion, .07 micrograms per liter calculates to 70,000 PPT. That’s 1000 times more than the EPA’s safe level advisory. If you get your tap water through a public water system, you can request an annual report detailing local PFAS levels.
HOW DO I AVOID PFAS AND PFOA EXPOSURE?
Consumers can take some steps to limit their exposure to PFAS, including testing their home water, filtering their water, choosing bottled waters carefully, and avoiding products that contain the compounds. Consider choosing flooring and furniture brands that don’t use a stain-resistant or water-resistant coating. Check fast-food packaging and microwave popcorn bags or other common sources. Also be careful when cooking with nonstick pans. They shouldn’t shed PFAS when used according to manufacturer specifications, but don’t overheat them, scrape them excessively or with metal utensils, or put them in a dishwasher if they’re not meant to be cleaned that way.
Many consumers turn to bottled water when unsure about the safety of their tap water, but even some bottled water products sold in the U.S. and tested contained potentially toxic PFAS chemicals, prompting calls for the federal government to set standards.
A study published in the journal Water Research and led by Johns Hopkins University researchers, detected PFAS substances in 39 out of more than 100 bottled waters tested, in some cases at levels deemed concerning by water quality experts. The study did not identify which brands were tested. But the researchers did find that bottled waters labeled as “purified,” which are typically filtered through reverse osmosis, contained less PFAS overall than “spring” water, which is not filtered using that method.
Even worse, in 2020, Consumer Reports tested 47 bottled waters and detected PFAS in 43 of them. Carbonated waters were more likely to contain PFAS, with several showing levels above the scientist-recommended 1 part per trillion limit. Overall, 19 brands tested in the Water Research study contained more than 1 ppt of PFAS. Plus, BPS leaches into the water from plastic bottles (see “Plastics” later in this article), not to mention causing a tremendous amount of unrecycled trash that further pollutes water supplies. Apparently, bottled water is not the solution.
CHLORAMINES AND TTHMs
Water comes from a variety of sources, such as lakes and wells, which can be contaminated with germs that may cause infectious diseases including typhoid fever, hepatitis, and cholera. Germs can also contaminate water as it travels through miles of piping to get to your community. To prevent contamination with germs, water companies add a disinfectant — usually either chlorine or chloramine — that kills disease-causing germs such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and norovirus.
In 1974, scientists discovered that chlorine could react with naturally occurring materials in the water to create what are called disinfection byproducts, or DBPs. These are substances that form when the disinfectant reacts with natural compounds in the water. Many of these DBPs have been shown to cause cancer, including trihalomethanes (THMs), which are a group of chemical compounds. Today, we have more than a thousand US cities with unsafe levels of total THMs (TTHMs) in their water. They are colorless and evaporate out of the water into the air, so inhalation exposure to TTHM can be significant, especially when showering and bathing, as can exposure from absorption through the skin. No, water isn’t absorbed into your body through your skin. But metals and minerals in the water can be absorbed through your skin.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the EPA have determined that TTHMs may be carcinogenic to humans. Long term consumption of TTHM in drinking water above safe limits increase the risk of certain types of bladder, colon, and rectal cancer. Some data indicate that disinfection byproducts may increase the risk of developmental effects, so women who are pregnant or may become pregnant may wish to avoid consuming water containing TTHM and other disinfection byproducts exceeding the drinking water standard. More research is being conducted to better understand the potential risks from using water containing TTHM.
Many water treatment facilities have been switching from chlorine to chloramines, largely to help public water systems meet federal disinfection byproduct requirements. Chloramines are a mixture of chlorine and ammonia. Because chloramine is more stable and longer lasting than free chlorine, it provides better protection against bacterial growth in distribution systems.
According to the Water Quality Association, some byproducts from chloramine are suspected carcinogens. However, the Center for Disease Control states on their website that chloramine creates fewer DBPs than chlorine.
Chloramine has been used as a drinking water disinfectant in the United States since 1929. In 1998, an EPA survey estimated 68 million Americans were drinking water disinfected with chloramine. Several major U.S. cities such as Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and Washington, D.C. use chloramine to disinfect drinking water. Chloramine is recognized as a safe disinfectant and a good alternative to chlorine. Studies indicate that using or drinking water with small amounts of chloramine does not cause harmful health effects and provides protection against waterborne disease outbreaks. These studies reported no observed health effects from drinking water with chloramine levels of less than 50 milligrams per liter (mg/L) in drinking water. A normal level for drinking water disinfection can range from 1.0 to 4.0 mg/L.
CHLORINE VERSUS CHLORAMINE
Unlike chlorine, chloramine cannot be removed by letting water sit out for a few days. However, products and filters are available that can remove chloramine. Chloramine will deteriorate natural rubber products like toilet tank flapper valves faster than chlorine.
Some water treatment plants switch back and forth between chlorine and chloramines at different times of the year to flush their system, causing something called a “burnout.” A burnout happens when the water treatment process changes from chloramines to free chlorine, which is a stronger, faster-acting disinfectant. During these burnouts, the chlorine can form potentially dangerous DBPs which are passed on to your drinking water. Some burnouts can last up to ninety days. Municipal water treatment plants are not required to advise you when this happens.
One of the most famous cases of chloramines gone wrong was when Washington, D.C., switched to using chloramines in 2000, which led to major corrosion issues in the city’s aging lead pipes. By 2001, lead levels were detected to be at least eighty times higher than the accepted safe limits. A congressional investigation and lawsuit followed.
To reduce your overall TTHM exposure risk:
- Reduce the length of showers and baths.
- Ventilate your bathroom while bathing or showering.
- Limit time spent in or around chlorinated pools or hot tubs.
- Operate room exhaust fans or ventilate your room when boiling water, washing with hot water, or running the dishwasher.
- Reduce the temperature on hot water heaters.
- We’ll talk about filtering water shortly.
HEAVY METALS IN WATER
In recent years, the onset of the Flint, Michigan drinking water crisis has made people aware of heavy metals in tap water, especially lead. Many of these naturally occurring and potentially toxic metals cannot be smelled, tasted, or seen in drinking water. Once they’re in your body, they can bioaccumulate leading to detrimental health impacts, especially in your brain and nervous system.
Remember, boiling water will not remove lead or any other metals. Boiling will remove the water, which concentrates the contamination and makes it even worse.
LEAD IN WATER
Lead is a bluish silver, naturally occurring metal that is fairly soft and very resistant to corrosion making it a plumber’s favorite material back in the day. It is toxic to just about every lifeform. It can enter your tap water when household plumbing systems corrode, when natural deposits erode into your water source, or when industrial activity leaks lead into your water source.
While the EPA enforces a 15 PPB limit on lead in drinking water, no amount of lead is considered safe. Lead accumulates in your body and has several toxic effects on your brain, liver, kidney, and bones. Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of lead poisoning. Lead exposure can lower a child’s IQ, negatively impact behavior, and result in lifelong disabilities.
Currently, there is no Federal requirement for schools to test their drinking water–leaving millions of children exposed to potentially toxic levels of lead in water.
You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in your water. If you live in an older neighborhood or a house built prior to 1986, laboratory testing is a wise investment. It is important to note that lead is legal in many fixtures and pipes since it’s usually covered with some sort of biofilm. Routine municipal chlorine burnouts can kill the biofilm exposing your water to the lead underneath. The only way to know if your water has lead is to test your water with a professional laboratory.
Cast into the spotlight by Erin Brockovich and the super popular movie about her class action lawsuit, chromium occurs in natural deposits, and can leach into water systems through mining and industrial waste.
The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural waters in the environment are trivalent chromium, an essential nutrient found in broccoli, liver, potatoes, whole grains, seafood, and some other meats. This is the good chromium.
Hexavalent chromium, the bad chromium, which is a human carcinogen that can also affect your liver, kidneys, and cause circulatory disorders and nerve damage.
The national drinking water standard is set for “total chromium.” Both hexavalent and trivalent chromium are covered under the same drinking water standard because chromium may convert from trivalent to hexavalent in water and the human body depending on the environmental conditions. The EPA currently limits total chromium at 100 PPB.
Chromium cannot be seen, tasted or smelled–so knowing if it’s in your drinking water is near impossible if you haven’t tested it. But, if you live in an industrial area with a lot of big factories that are still open, you might want to get your water tested.
Manganese is a naturally occurring metal used in corrosion-resistant aluminum alloys. It’s also an additive in unleaded gasoline, paint pigment, batteries, matches, fireworks, fertilizer, and a component of tobacco smoke.
While manganese is an essential nutrient required by the human body in small amounts, exposure to high concentrations of manganese over many years has been associated with toxicity to the nervous system. The EPA recommends maintaining a manganese concentration at or below 50 parts per billion in drinking water. You may notice a metallic taste, brownish-red color that can stain clothing or appliances, or black slime if your water contains manganese at concentrations over 50 PPB.
Copper seldom occurs naturally in the water supply but is one of the most commonly detected heavy metals in tap water. Corrosion of pipes, faucets and other plumbing fixtures is the most common source of copper in American homes. Changes in water chemistry can dissolve these metals from old pipes and deposit them in your drinking water. Running your water for a minute before drinking can usually reduce copper buildup at your tap.
Small amounts of copper are necessary to our health and the EPA has set a “health goal” of 1.3 parts per million (PPM). Above 1 PPM, copper can cause a distasteful, metallic flavor in your water and leave blue-green stains on fixtures. Too much copper, especially in kids, can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Copper has also been associated with liver and kidney disease.
Nickel is a naturally occurring element and is most often exposed to drinking water during mining activities. Currently, there are no EPA enforced limits on nickel levels in drinking water. Nickel was regulated from 1992 until 1995 with a level set at 100 PPB. However, the EPA removed the limits when the Nickel Development Institute challenged the methodology used to establish the Maximum Contaminant Level in a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Nickel can be a potent human carcinogen at high doses. In lower doses it can lead to decreased lung function and allergic reaction.
Nickel doesn’t always make itself easily known. The most frequent concern regarding nickel in water is skin irritation. About 10-20% of the U.S. population is sensitive to nickel and may experience a rash or other dermal irritation after having contact with water that contains too much nickel.
Aluminum can infiltrate water sources from natural formations underground or after use as a water treatment coagulant and additive. It may also be released by metal refineries and mining operations.
The federal Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level for aluminum is set between 50 to 200 PPB. While elevated levels of aluminum may result in bluish-tinged water, concentrations of aluminum may be high without presenting any visible effects. Aluminum is a known nervous system toxicant with possible links to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Arsenic is a common element that’s toxic to humans. Natural erosion of arsenic from soil and rocks is the most common pathway for arsenic to get into your tap water. It is also present in agricultural runoff from some farms, and waste streams from metals and electronics industry activities.
The EPA recommends a Maximum Contaminant Level for arsenic of no more than 10 PPB. However, a recent study demonstrated that children drinking well water with levels as low as 5 PPB arsenic had significant reductions in IQ and perceptual reasoning. Short term effects of arsenic exposure include skin discoloration, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Long term effects include impacts to the heart, lung, liver, kidney, eye, dermal gastrointestinal, immune system, and nervous system, diabetes, and various types of cancer.
There are no obvious signs of arsenic contamination. However, a Natural Resources Defense Council study reported that nearly 77 million Americans receive drinking water from systems that violate federal regulations for arsenic. They also noted that western states tend to have a higher incidence and elevated average levels of arsenic in their municipal or well water systems.
Tap Score offers a water test designed explicitly for testing these (and other) important U.S. water heavy metal contaminants that pose potential health risks. Whether you are on city water or private well water, all of Tap Score’s Essential, Advanced, and Extended Tests include high precision analysis for every heavy metal.
PLASTICS AND MICROPLASTICS IN WATER
Remember microbeads? Those tiny beads found in face washes and toothpaste a few years back? Those are perfect examples of microplastics – only they can be much smaller, even microscopic. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, measuring fewer than five millimeters in length. That’s about the size of a sesame seed, and they can be smaller than a period at the end of a magazine sentence. Most of the plastic waste in the ocean is not visible on the surface, but rather hidden as microplastics barely visible in the ocean, in fish, and in our drinking water.
Unfortunately, plastic waste doesn’t biodegrade and disappear, it only breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, eventually small enough to migrate through our intestinal walls and travel to our lymph nodes and other bodily organs, where they can potentially cause health troubles. Plastic can carry toxic chemicals and then release them later on, exposing people to harmful chemicals. Some of these toxic chemicals can include heavy metals, dioxins, or bisphenol S (BPS), which can all cause havoc in our bodies in higher concentrations.
A global survey of tap water from six regions on five continents with 159 samples analyzed found 83% contained plastic particles. The range was between 0 and 57 particles per liter. The highest density of plastic per volume of tap water was found in North America and the lowest densities were found, collectively, in seven European countries. In the US alone, 94% percent of drinking water samples were found to contain microplastics.
Sadly, microplastics were even found in bottled water including some of the most popular brands. In our current environment, we may consume as many as 14 microplastic particles a day, typically microscopic strands or threads of plastic, from drinking water or eating seafood, and we’re not yet sure what that’s doing to our bodies. As microplastics are a relatively recent field of study, the effects of microplastics on human health remain largely unknown. Most research has been conducted on the effects of ingesting plastic in wildlife populations, but similar research is beginning with humans.\
CHEMICALS AND DRUGS IN WATER
Tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, hormones, mood stabilizers, and other drugs — are in our drinking water supplies, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. Drinking water supplies in 24 major metropolitan areas were found to include drugs. At this point, there’s really no evidence of pharmaceutical and personal care products in the water harming people, but studies are showing adverse effects on aquatic life.
Data collected from a medication collection program in California in 2007 suggest that about half of all medications — both prescription and over the counter — were discarded. With new drug disposal programs in place today, it’s hopefully a lot lower now, but nonetheless, a lot of unused medication is still getting into our water.
Our bodies metabolize only a fraction of most drugs we swallow. Most of the remainder is excreted in urine or feces and gets into wastewater. An increasing number of medications are applied as creams or lotions, and the unabsorbed portions of those medications can contribute to the pollution problem when they get washed off. It’s been calculated, for example, that one man’s use of testosterone cream can wind up putting as much of the hormone into the water as the natural excretions from hundreds of men.
Health care institutions are another source of pharmaceutical water pollution. Hospitals typically have on-site pharmacies with arrangements in place to return unused drugs to manufacturers for credit or disposal. Nursing homes, though, have often been guilty of flushing medications down the toilet or drain after a patient dies or is transferred to another facility. Typically, they don’t have the same kind of return arrangements as hospitals. And the rules for getting rid of opioid painkillers, which make disposal down the drain an acceptable option, have inadvertently encouraged some nursing homes to dispose of all their leftover medications that way.
Drug manufacturing also results in some pharmaceutical pollution. A U.S. Geological Survey study found contamination levels downstream from two drug manufacturing plants in New York State were 10 to 1,000 times higher than those at comparable facilities around the country. A separate study in 1999 and 2000 found measurable amounts of one or more medications in 80% of the water samples drawn from a network of 139 streams in 30 states. The drugs identified included antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, heart medications, synthetic hormones, and painkillers. Fortunately, these were found only in trace amounts and far below levels thought to have an effect on humans.
Agriculture is another major source of drugs seeping into water supplies. The two trillion pounds of animal waste generated by large-scale poultry and livestock operations in this country is laced with hormones and antibiotics fed to animals to make them grow faster and to keep them from getting sick. Inevitably, some of those hormones and antibiotics leach into groundwater or get into waterways.
Most sewage or drinking water treatment plants are not currently designed to remove pharmaceuticals from water. Some drugs including ibuprofen, acetaminophen, codeine, and naproxen are more readily removed during treatment, while others including carbamazepine and diclofenac are not.
What we’re not sure of is the cumulative effect from even tiny amounts of these and other pharmaceuticals in drinking water, because there hasn’t been enough time to study the effects. Right now, the EPA does not have any guidelines about pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Water treatment plants, despite removing most compounds, don’t tend to specifically test or treat for them. As our demographic ages, drug use will continue to climb. Newer pharmaceutical innovations including nanomedicines will continue to find their way into water systems, and we have no idea how any of those will affect us.
HOW TO FILTER YOUR OWN WATER
With all the potentially dangerous variables and unstudied effects of these chemicals, metals, and plastics in our water supplies, the only way to ensure you and your loved ones are safe is to test and filter your water.
There are dozens of consumer water filters on the market made by companies like Brita, Pur, and others. Let’s look at some of our favorite affordable options to make sure we’re not drinking anything we shouldn’t be.
Almost all newer refrigerators with connected water lines have some sort of water filtration system. They’re cost-effective ways to get instantly cold, filtered drinking water. Most of these filters use a three-step filtration. Whirlpool EveryDrop filters first use a particle filter, where larger particles such as sand and silt are trapped in a fine mesh net. Water is then pushed through something like activated charcoal where particulate matter like sugars and cysts are filtered out. A third filter traps microscopic substances like traces of pharmaceuticals and pesticides that may be left behind in treated water. This final step also improves the taste and odor of water.
The biggest problem with refrigerator filters isn’t the actual filter, but the dispenser itself. In 2013 The National Sanitation Foundation did a study on the germiest places in the kitchen and discovered that most refrigerator water dispensers are coated with ‘concerning levels’ of yeast and mold.
Make sure to look for a water filter that’s NSF certified to ensure proper contaminant removal. Most refrigerator water filters last at least six months, up to one year. Depending on the quality of water being filtered, however, some may need to be changed as often as every three months.
Water Filter Pitchers
We’ve used Brita, Pur, and Waterdrop filters. The thing is we’re not completely sure that any of these remove all the PFAS, TTHMs, heavy metals, plastics, and residual drugs from our tap water. Call us paranoid, but we’ve instituted a two-stage filtration system for all the water we drink and cook with in our apartment.
First, we use a LifeStraw filter to filter our tap water. It’s fast, the filters last a long time, and it removes chlorine and fluoride. After the LifeStraw, we dump the pre-filtered water into our ZeroWater filter, that hopefully removes everything else. Our local water has very high dissolved solids including metals and microplastics, so the pre-filter helps our ZeroWater filter last a little longer. The bad news is our $15 ZeroWater filters fail in a week at TDS at 300 or higher, and then they horribly expel all the bad stuff they filtered back into your glass. You’ll know because the water will taste sour and smell like dead fish. You really need to monitor the TDS levels every day. Plus, the filter housing is plastic. If your water is bad, you’ll spend a small fortune in replacement filters.
We’ve tested our ZeroWater results and were pleased to know the metals, plastics, PFAS and TTHMs were all removed successfully. ZeroWater’s Ion Exchange filter seems to be the only pour-through water filter NSF certified to reduce lead, chromium, and PFOA/PFOS. Dissolved Solids are a measurement of compounds like minerals, salts and organic compounds that are dissolved into water through contact with rock and other surfaces.
Common water pitcher brands like Brita and Pur are good if you want to reduce bad-tasting chlorine and contaminants like heavy metals. But they weren’t designed to remove or reduce PFAS and their concentration in your tap water.
Here are our Amazon Affiliate links to the filters we’ve used and tested:
- Zero Water: https://amzn.to/3bkCJqP
- Brita Filter: https://amzn.to/3bAg1eF
- LifeStraw Filter: https://amzn.to/3OBcpsE
- Waterdrop Filter: https://amzn.to/3HUQfO6
Faucet-Mounted Water Filters
Among others, Pur and Brita make popular models that screw directly into your faucet and filter your water before you use it. The faucet mount water filter is fairly easy to attach. It might look a little funny sticking out where it doesn’t belong, but that’s a small price to pay for clean water that’ll keep you healthy. Faucet-mounted filters are compatible with most traditional kitchen faucets, but they do not work with the newer pull-out or hand-held faucets. Here’s Brita’s leading faucet filter on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3zUsUsd
Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Filters
According to the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, a public health advocacy organization that has called for more regulation of PFAS, the gold standard for in-house filtration is a reverse osmosis filter, commonly called “R-O.” Reverse osmosis filters work by forcing water through a membrane that traps contaminants. These filters are considered the most effective, but they produce large amounts of wastewater — about three times as much water as they treat. Ranging from $200 to $1,800, a reverse osmosis system is typically the most expensive option and may require a professional plumber to install it under your sink. Whole-home RO filters are also available. Waterdrop makes a popular and affordable under-sink RO system: https://amzn.to/3QHV8NA
TEST YOUR DRINKING WATER
Are there contaminants in your drinking water? How do they affect your health? What can you do about them? TapScore’s scientists have developed dozens of tests that can answer all your questions and more. Learn more here.
- New Study Finds PFAS in Bottled Water, as Lawmakers Call for Federal Limits
- What’s Really in Your Bottled Water?
- What are the health effects of PFAS?
- Why Dangerous ‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Still Allowed in America’s Drinking Water
- Detection of ultrashort-chain and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in U.S. bottled water
- SENATE COLLEAGUES CALL ON FDA TO SET LIMITS ON PFAS IN BOTTLED WATER
- Nontargeted mass-spectral detection of chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates in New Jersey soils
- Immunotoxicity of perfluorinated alkylates: calculation of benchmark doses based on serum concentrations in children
- Water Filter Ratings
- Not All In-Home Drinking Water Filters Completely Remove Toxic PFAS
- What are PFOA and PFOS and What Are They Doing in Your Drinking Water?
- NSF Product and Service Listings
- Chloramines in Drinking Water
- Water Disinfection with Chlorine and Chloramine
- Chloramines in Drinking Water
- Erin Brokovich tells us why we DON’T want chloramines in our drinking water
- TTHM in Drinking Water: Information for Consumers
- TTHMS FAQ
- 7 Heavy Metals Everyone Should Test For
- Synthetic Polymer Contamination in Global Drinking Water
- Drugs in the water
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