Not all water filters created equal, expert says
Are you flushing money down the drain when you buy at-home water filters? Maybe.
At-home water filters like ones that fit directly onto the faucet or ones that go inside a pitcher to be refrigerated are a quick fix many might turn to when there are concerns over water quality.
Many work, but they aren’t all created equal, according to assistant professor Barbara Buckingham at the College of Charleston.
Buckingham said they are most often purchased to correct odor or taste issues with water.
“People use point of use water filters to improve aesthetics, to improve taste and odor issue because what's coming out of the tap should be completely safe to drink,” she said.
She said they vary in terms of make, model, and function, and you have to pay close attention to what you buy.
“Certain filters might remove particles or bacteria,” she explained. “Others might be rated to remove lead or other types of organic or inorganic contaminants.”
We compared a PUR Advanced MaxIon filter and a Brita on-tap faucet system with her. They’re similar in price and function.
“On the box it gives you a lot of info about how the filters should be used, when they should be replaced, and how they are certified,” Beckingham said on the first glance.
She pointed out one of the first things consumers should look for, which is a NSF seal.
“The National Sanitation Foundation seal is from the third party group that tests, and so see this box even says which standards and which chemicals have been tested,” she explained.
In her opinion, the PUR system is slightly better than the Brita system, because it has been tested against three different standards compared to Brita’s two.
Both systems include performance data sheets with their instruction packets.
“They tell us all of the chemicals they have been tested with and the removal rates, and all are pretty high,” she said. “It pays to read the instructions.”
Both products claim to remove nearly all lead and mercury and significantly reduce chlorine and pesticides.
Beckingham said that is already done at the city level, but what is left behind is filtered even more through at-home systems. So, filters like PUR and Brita can’t hurt, she said.
“Your water has already been treated, and some of those things could already be well below levels that would be harmful. So, they would be safe,” Beckingham added. “It's just that filter would remove an additional amount.”
She gave her stamp of approval, but she said it’s important for consumers to stay informed.
“If there's an NSF certification on the water filter, you can find that documentation online to know exactly what it is that that filter has been certified to remove and know how well it performs.”
Beckingham also said that people should realize city water is more heavily regulated and routinely tested than even the bottled water industry.
Here is a link to the USEPA website about regulated drinking water standards for public water systems. https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations
Municipal annual water quality reports for Mt Pleasant: https://www.mountpleasantwaterworks.com/water/quality/annual-water-quality-report
Environmental Working Group resource on different water filters: http://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide