Water Filters

5795806_mCommunity water systems vary in their ability to monitor and enforce EPA standards as well as the degree to which they are exposed to potential contaminants. Communities also differ in their ability to ensure that corporations do not discharge unsafe chemicals into the environment. Some contaminants such as lead can enter your water after the treatment process through lead pipes or PVC pipes that contain lead stabilizers (to be banned in Europe in 2015).[1] Bottled water can serve as an emergency option, but the environmental impact of plastic bottles makes it unsustainable over the long term. Although bottled water is neither safer nor distinguishable in taste from filtered tap water, it costs from 240 to 1,000 times more.[2]

The most cost-effective way to reduce your exposure to contaminants in water is to use a water filter, but many cheap options such as Brita and Pur are made of plastic, typically polypropylene. As far as plastics, polypropylene is thought to pose a low overall hazard to human health,[3] but such filters must be replaced frequently, which puts more plastic into the environment. Low-cost units also break down rather quickly, lasting little more than a year. A review of filters by Consumer Reports also demonstrated that filter effectiveness, maintenance costs, and efficiency vary.

Best Filter Options

We searched for filters with a stainless steel housing or BPA-free plastic, low maintenance costs, high company ratings by Consumer Reports, and high effectivness in filtering various contaminants, especially atrazine, lead, chloroform, and pharmaceutical compounds. A high-quality carbon filter (with or without arsenic reduction) will suffice for most people who rely on a public water utility. A more radical option is reverse osmosis. We recommend that you check out how your city ranks on clean water before buying a filter.


Best Under-sink Carbon filters


Aquaversa Carbon Block Under-Sink Water Filter


MultiPure AquaPerform Under Sink Water Filter (With Arsenic Reduction)


Best Countertop Carbon Filters


Multipure Aquaversa Carbon Block Stainless Steel Countertop Water Filter


Multipure Aquaperform (With Arsenic Reduction)


PUR Advanced Faucet Water Filter Chrome


Best Reverse Osmosis System

In reverse osmosis, water is filtered through a semi-permeable membrane and a carbon filter. Reverse osmosis may be necessary if you live in a rural area without a strong centralized water utility and your water contains contaminants that elude carbon filtration, such as nitrates. Unsafe levels of nitrates and nitrites, for example, may be present in private wells in close proximity to farms that use nitrogen-based fertilizers. Excessive exposure to nitrates and nitrites can cause a dangerous condition called acquired methemoglobinemia (blood can no longer bring oxygen to tissue)[4] and has been linked to cancer.[5]

There are two disadvantages of reverse osmosis. First, household reverse osmosis units are very inefficient in filtering water. For every 2 gallons of filtered water, 8 to 15 gallons of waste water are produced. A whole house reverse osmosis system can yield 500 gallons of waste water per day.[6] Second, reverse osmosis is too effective in filtration. It filters beneficial minerals from water, including iron, fluoride, manganese, and calcium. These minerals can also be obtained from your diet, but cooking with demineralized water can decrease the nutritional value of food.[7]

Before purchasing a reverse osmosis system, have your water tested to ensure that the investment is necessary.


Multipure AquaRO with Booster pump and Zero-waste Kit

  • Note

    Culligan is the highest rated low-cost filter by consumer reports but Culligan does not disclose whether it is BPA-free. Culligan also fails to provide extensive performance data for its filter. Brita faucet-mounted filters do not filter mercury.