How Safe is Using Water Filters for Drinking Water Purposes?

how safe are water filters?

The high cost of bottled water is a major turn-off for people who are considering using it. Bottled water can be anywhere from $1.00 to $4.00 per liter.

This price varies based on location, but it’s still a lot more expensive than what you would pay for tap water.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that bottled water produces about 30 million tons of plastic waste each year, which is the equivalent to filling up 10 bottles with plastic every second!

To find an alternative to expensive, unhealthy bottled water, many consumers are turning to water filters for their drinking needs.

These systems typically produce clean, odorless, and safe drinking water from any tap or faucet in your home.

Nonetheless, some people are concerned about the safety of their water filter, and they want to know what they can do to ensure that they are getting a safe product for their drinking water needs.

If you are amongst the growing number of people get rid of the habit of bottled water and make the transition to filtered tap water.You may also be interested in finding out about the quality of your local water supply. 

Is Unfiltered Tap Water Safe?

is unfiltered water safe?

Federal legislation provides for annual reports on water quality to assist consumers to know the quality of their tap water.

This information is important because it helps consumers in making informed decisions regarding the kind of water filter they should purchase.

For example, the Annual Consumer Confidence Report helps consumers to buy the right water filters depending on the kind of contaminants that is present in their locality.

The consumers Confidence report contains information about the contaminants, if any, and how these contaminants might affect them.

The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) Under the Safe Water Drinking Act, also has a database of what is in public water systems and are also required to test for certain contaminants. 

The EPA’s database is useful in helping you find out more about what’s in your drinking water and how it might affect you.

It provides information on the quality of water in a public water system, the average level of contaminants found in the system over time, and whether or not there have been any violations of health-based standards.

According to the EPA, 90% of US public water systems meets its standards.

However, even though the water from the tap may be safe at its source, it can become contaminated during the process of delivering it to your home.

This is why so many people look at water filters for consumption. Water filters are a great way to ensure that some of the contaminants that might have infiltrated your water are effectively eliminated. 

Here are some advantages of water filters:

  • Eliminate chemicals and heavy metals from your tap water.
  • Filters out chemicals and heavy metals from your tap water
  • Helps purify your drinking water
  • Removes bad taste or odor
  • Reduces chlorine taste and odor
  • Reduces lead content in drinking water

This guide will help look into How Safe Water Filters Are and in addition we have an elaborate buying guide of water filters.

Are Water Filters Safe for Drinking Water Purposes?

are water filters safe for drinking water

Having a filter is not just important to your health and well-being, it helps avoid the taste of contaminants in your water.

When you are evaluating the safety of your water filter for drinking, as long as you are using a filter that is recommended by your local health department, there should not be a concern for the safety of the water filters that you buy.

Furthermore, Tap water is regulated by the EPA and the CDC, and it has to meet strict consumer standards.

Consumer standards are actually more stringent for the quality and safety of tap water than for bottled water.

Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, which has less strict standards . It’s not quite as safe as tap water.

What Type of Water Filter is Best

As we have seen, water filters can be a great way to ensure that you and your family are drinking clean water.

Some people prefer the taste of filtered water, while some people like the taste of unfiltered water. The decision to use a water filter really comes down to personal preference.

Nonetheless, it is important to be aware that there are many different types of contaminants in tap water and not all water filters remove them all. 

From plastic pitcher filters and built-in refrigerator filters,to faucet and under-the-sink filters,to whole-house models that combine a variety of media types and treat all of the water in your house.

The best water filter for you will depend on what contaminants you need to remove from your water, how much money you want to spend, and how often you want to change the filter.

NSF tested and certified water filters are also an important consideration before purchasing the water filter.

Example of NSF Certified Filters are : Brita® Ultra Pitcher Water Filter System, Brita® Countertop Water Filter System

Underwriters Laboratories and the Water Quality Association (WQA) also offer similar certification, based on NSF standards.

Example of WQA Certified Filters: AquaTru™, PUR® PREFilter™, PUR® PurOmega™, PUR® PurOmega V2™

Both NSF & WQA certification guarantees safety standards ensuring that the water filters are effective at removing contaminants as claimed by the manufacturer. 

NSF has different certifications, so when you read the label, first make sure it says the filter will remove the contaminants you’re most concerned about.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the contaminants found in tap water and how they are removed by different types NSF & WQA water filters.

1. Lead

Lead (Pb) is one of the most dangerous contaminants found in tap water.

Lead is added to pipe water as a stabilizer to prevent pipes from corroding.

However, when lead leaches from plumbing, it can cause serious health problems for adults and children alike.

Lead can affect your nervous system and kidneys, as well as having an impact on your IQ levels.

The safest way to remove lead from your drinking water is through a filter that removes approximately 99% of all lead particles in tap water.

This means that you will be able to drink filtered water without worrying about ingesting any harmful levels of lead.

NSF lead specific guide provides a list of all Standard certified brands and models with details for each. Learn more here

2. Chlorine and Chloramine

Chlorine is added to water to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. It also helps disinfect the water, so that it tastes better when it’s consumed.

Chlorine can be harmful to your health when it is inhaled or swallowed, so it’s important that you remove as much of it from your tap water as possible before drinking it.

Chlorine is one of the most common contaminants found in tap water, along with other chemicals like pesticides and lead.

The only way to remove chlorine completely from your tap water is to use a reverse osmosis or distillation system or charcoal filter.

These filters remove over 90% of chlorine and other contaminants from your drinking water.

3. Arsenic

Arsenic is a heavy metal that is often found in ground water sources, including some private wells and some public water systems that use groundwater.

Arsenic is associated with several health problems and can cause cancer.

Arsenic can be present in two forms: trivalent and pentavalent.

It is important to know what kind (or “species”) of arsenic is present in your water in order to select the best filter.

If your water is treated with chlorine, you are more likely to have pentavalent arsenic, which can be removed by filters labeled with the NSF standard 53 or 58. 

If your water is not treated, additional treatment (a “pre-oxidation step”) might be needed to convert the trivalent arsenic to pentavalent arsenic before the water is filtered.

Distillation is highly effective at removing arsenic, although this technology is not as practical for home use because it uses more energy and takes longer than other water treatments.

Nitrates & Nitrites

Nitrates are chemicals that get into groundwater from contamination with fertilizer, manure, or septic systems, sewage, or erosion of natural deposits.

Nitrates make it hard for your red blood cells to carry oxygen. This can be dangerous for infants and some adults

If you get your waterfrom a public watersystem, nitrate levels are monitored and controlled.

If you have a private well, you need to have your well water tested to find out if nitrates are a problem for you.

If testing determines your water has high levels of nitrates, you can choose reverse osmosis (NSF 58 or distillation (NSF 62) technology. Boiling and filtration do not remove nitrates.

If your water contains high levels of nitrates, other contaminants might also be present.

Cryptosporidium & Giardia

People who are immunocompromised, or have immune systems weakened by chemotherapy, AIDS, or organ transplants, should consult with their health care provider to determine whether they should consider installing a water treatment system to ensure their water has a low concentration of germs, especially the germ Cryptosporidium.

Filters that have the words “reverse osmosis” on the label protect against Cryptosporidium, as do those with an “absolute 1 micron” pore size. You can also look for the standards NSF 53 or NSF 58 on the label.

In addition, immunocompromised people should not change waterfilters themselves, as this may expose them to the contaminants collected by the filter and potentially increase their risk of infection.

Some filters can remove parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia if used properly. However, they may not remove viruses and bacteria. Germs could still be present in your filtered water.


Copper (Cu) is another dangerous contaminant found in tap water that can be harmful to your health if ingested in large quantities over time.

Copper exposure has been linked with cardiovascular disease and bone disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The safest way to remove copper from your drinking water is through a filter that removes approximately 99% of all copper particles in tap water.

This means that you will be able to drink filtered water without worrying about ingesting any harmful levels of copper


When changing filtercartridges, it’s important to usea certified cartridge.

 A non-certified cartridge may not effectively filterlead from the drinkingwater.

There are a variety of filteroptions that meet the NSF’s certified standard. 

Outlined below, these filtersinclude: pour-through pitchers/carafes, faucet mounts, and even plumbed-in filtersthat are installed under your sink or reverse osmosis drinkingwatertreatment systems.

Carafe, or “pour-through,” filtersare the simplest waterfiltersto use.

The filterfits inside a pitcher that you can keep in your refrigerator.

 Carafes are inexpensive and easy to use.However, the filtershave a short lifetime and can only filtera limited amount of waterat a time.

A faucet-mounted filterisexactly what it sounds like — a filterthat isscrewed directly on to your faucet. 

These filtersrequire minimal installation, but they slow the flow of waterand can’t be usedon all faucets.

Countertop filtersare best forfilteringlarge quantities of waterwithout modifying plumbing. 

They’re less likely to clog than carafe or faucet-mounted filters,but can clutter countertops and can’t be usedwith all types of faucets.

Plumbed-in filtersare installed directly into an existing waterpipe. 

Often, they are installed under the sink (and are sometimes referred to as “under-sink” filters).

They can be plumbed-in to the existing sink faucet, which may require drilling a hole in the countertop, or they can dispense waterthrough a separate tap. 

These filtersare best forfilteringlarge amounts of waterwithout modifying the existing faucet or cluttering the counter. 

However, they take up cabinet space and require plumbing modifications.

Point-of-entry, or “whole-house,” filtersare installed directly in the watermain and filterall the waterin a house, including waterforthe kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms.

 These filtershave a long lifetime and are an inexpensive way to remove sediment, rust and, in some cases, chlorine from household water.

But most won’t remove most other contaminants. They also require professional installation.


Different waterfilterproducts usedifferent technologies. 

Some usemore than one. If you are looking fora home waterfilter,you are likely to come across some of these terms:.

Particulate/mechanical filter:These are simple screens that block large particles. They often function as “prefilters” in a multiple-step waterfilter.

Adsorption/Activated Carbon: Adsorption refers to a physical process where particles in waterare removed because they stick to the surface of the material in the filter.

These filtersare usually made with carbon, often in granulated or powdered form.

 They are the most common filterson the market and come in different forms including pitchers and faucet-mounted systems. 

They are generally effective forreducing the most typical worrisome compounds that can be found in municipal water:chlorine, chlorine byproducts and dissolved volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) such as pesticides and herbicides. 

Carbon adsorption filtersgenerally work well forreducing bad odors and tastes.

Softeners/Ion Exchange Units: Watersofteners usea process called ion exchange to reduce hard metals — including lead — in water.

When waterpasses through an ion exchange unit, hard metal ions are replaced by sodium ions, leaving the water“softer” as a result — but also saltier. 

This technology isoften usedin combination with adsorptive or reverse-osmosis filters.

Potassium chloride watersofteners work in a similar way to sodium chloride softeners, but without increasing levels of salt in the water;this makes potassium chloride softeners a better choice forsome uses,such as wateringplants.

Ultraviolet (UV) Treatment: This treatment usesUV light to kill germs that may be present in the water.

UV treatment isthe only treatment certified by the National Sanitation Foundation International to reduce bacteria.

Reverse Osmosis: Reverse osmosis isa process where waterisforced through a membrane that filtersout molecules physically larger than the watermolecules. 

Although reverse osmosis works well forreducing minerals, it isnot effective forchlorine or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are more likely to be concerns in municipal tap water.

However, many reverse-osmosis units are combined with pre-filtersand carbon filtersto address this concern. 

Reverse-osmosis filtersare expensive and very inefficient — they waste from one to three gallons of waterforevery gallon that they filter.

Distillation: Waterdistillers heat waterso that it turns into steam, which isthen collected and returned to its liquid form. 

Contaminants are left behind when the waterevaporates. Thus, distillation isvery effective forremoving most minerals and bacteria.

 However, some distillation units do not remove VOCs. Distillation also requires more energy than other methods, to heat the water.


When you compare throwing away a couple cartridges to the billions of water bottles we toss each year, filters are a preferable option.

Take responsibility for your family’s health by carefully considering whether you need to take additional steps to make your water the healthiest it can be.

Marcus Reynolds
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