How to Choose the Best Water Filter for Every Home and Budget
By Marilee Nelson |
Few things are more fundamental to creating a healthy home and body than pure, toxin-free water. Unfortunately, despite federal regulations contained within “The Clean Water Act”, there is no such thing as pure contaminant-free water anymore. Yes, in the United States we are fortunate to have measures in place to prevent deadly water borne illnesses common in developing nations. However, our water supplies are teeming with more toxins than ever, and this is a real concern for those of us interested in protecting our long-term health.
For example, the Environmental Working Group (EWG)—a non-profit consumer watchdog group—conducted studies of over 50,000 public water utilities nationwide, and discovered a whopping 250 different contaminants in our water supplies¹.
These contaminants include, but are not limited to²’³:
- Heavy metals—from agricultural runoff and industry pollution
- Pharmaceuticals—an investigation by the Associated Press detected dozens of pharmaceuticals in the US drinking water supply affecting over 41 million people
- Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides—including glyphosates, aka RoundUp®, deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and a carcinogen by the state of California
- Chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium—the industrial chemical you may know from the film: “Erin Brockovich”
- Flame retardants—such as those found in children’s sleepwear, mattresses, furniture, etc.
- TCE—a cancer-causing industrial solvent made famous by the book and film “A Civil Action,”
- Parasites and bacteria that come from fecal matter
- PFOA (from Teflon)
- Chlorine by-products such as THMs and HHAs
- To name but a few…
While we can’t possibly list all the contaminants and their adverse effects, here are some must-know facts6:
- 100 are linked to an increased risk of cancer.
- 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage.
- 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses.
- 38 that may cause fertility problems.
- 45 linked to hormonal disruption.
Now, here’s the really shocking part. Current maximum levels of the EPA regulated contaminants in drinking water are legally “allowed”, even though scientific literature (and good old fashioned common sense) tell a different tale regarding safety. Dr. Roy Speiser, water quality specialist, scientist, and consumer advocate describes how these toxic substances accumulate in the body over time:
This is known as ‘Bioaccumulation,’ which means if you drink contaminated water for a week you may be fine, but after years and years of regular consumption and exposure, you accumulate toxic heavy metals and chemicals in your body, increasing risks of certain diseases.
Given most of us aim to drink around 8 glasses of water a day (plus tea and coffee), bathe regularly, and use water to cook you can see how these harmful chemicals can easily accumulate. Yet, they are allowed to persist in our municipal and private water systems. Which is why it’s up to you to protect yourself from toxic water…and we’re here to help. Local water suppliers are not required to filter out many of these contaminants, nor do they have the equipment or budget to do so.
But that doesn’t mean YOU can’t take proactive steps to remove them from your personal water supply.
All you need to do is follow these four steps:
- Have your water tested if you are on a well or obtain your local water quality report if you are on a city or municipal system to uncover exactly which chemicals you’re dealing with.
- Research which home water filtration equipment will remove those specific toxins.
- Determine what’s best for your home, lifestyle, and budget.
- Remove other sneaky sources of water contamination throughout the home.
To help us navigate this process, we turned to Dr. Roy Speiser of CWR, Environmental Protection Products. Dr. Speiser has been at the forefront of water quality research and water filtration development for decades. He writes and lectures extensively on issues of water and air quality, environmental impact studies, and related health issues; and has helped many people clean up their water at home.
Step 1: How To Have Your Water Tested For Contaminants
Most of us don’t think about having our water tested for contaminants before buying a water filter, yet this simple step can save you a significant amount of money while preventing future health concerns. This goes for both city and well water.
How do you have your municipal water tested?
You don’t, because the city has already done it for you via their annual water quality report! To find your local water report, just Google your city name, state, and “water quality report” for the current year and it will pop right up. You can look at this yourself to determine basic toxin levels like disinfectants, fluoride, heavy metals, etc. But, unless you’re well-versed in all types of water contaminants we strongly recommend having a water quality expert review it for you.
According to Dr. Speiser: “Often I see a minimal water report that just lists a few basic contaminants, but I know there’s more behind it. In that case, I know we need to contact the local water supplier to get a comprehensive water report, which includes un-regulated contaminants.
“Also, the numbers reported can be misleading. For example, disinfectants like chlorine— including haloacetic acids and trihalomethanes which are classified as Class B carcinogens— are listed separately, which makes them look like they’re within safety specifications. However when you combine their totals together, the amount can exceed the allowable levels for each individual group. This is what a trained water specialist can help you understand.” Your city or municipal water supplier is required to test for at least 119 contaminants, so all you need to do is find your local water quality report and have a water specialist review it.
Dr. Speiser personally walked me through three online city water reports during this interview, and I was appalled at the deemed “safe” levels of contaminants—like heavy metals, uranium, and toxic solvents—in cities like Denver, CO, Houston, TX, and Melbourne, FL. This expert advice is worth its weight in gold when it comes to choosing the best water purification unit for your home.
If you can’t locate a water specialist, you can still get the data yourself and research it on sites like EWG and https://www.cwrenviro.com/blog. If you have a well, you’ll need to order a test kit. The CDC recommends having your well water tested for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants of concern at least once per year.
Call National Testing Laboratories – 1-800-458-3330 to test your well water. We recommend the Water Check Deluxe ($229.99) which tests for 107 contaminants plus pesticides. They also have less expensive basic versions.
You can also contact your local health department, order a home test kit, or take it a step further by hiring a water specialist who can provide an advanced home water testing kit and analyze the results for you. These kits range in price from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars depending upon how detailed you want to get. Your local health department can be an excellent resource for information on common local contaminants.
Step 2: Follow These 5 Tips on How to Research The Best Water Filter/Water Purification System For Your Home
Now that you know exactly what you need to remove from your water, you can confidently search for the best water filter. But where the heck do you start? After all, not all water filters are created equal in terms of quality, testing, durability, warranty, company reputation, etc. First off, you need to set your expectations and budget. For example, your ultimate goal may be to own a state-of-the-art whole home, custom-designed water filtration unit. But, if you’re living in a rental property, move around a lot, or have a limited budget this may not be realistic. The good news is, there are excellent water filtration units to suit every lifestyle, household, and budget.
Here are Dr. Speiser’s tips on finding the most effective water purification system for your home:
Look for multi-stage water filters that go beyond chlorine and lead removal.
As you now know, chlorine and lead only represent a small fraction of the contaminants in today’s water. Dr. Speiser states, “Chlorine can be taken out by most carbon blocks and most filters have a lead remover. For industrial chemicals, heavy metals, and fluoride, you have to use multiple filter technologies based on water quality reports analyzed by an expert.”
Read water filter companies’ water testing reports, to see what their filters actually remove. And make sure testing is done using National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) protocols.
A reputable company should have reports published on their website citing the type and level of toxins their products remove. “And these reports should be done to NSF protocols for accuracy and transparency.” says Dr. Speiser. For an example, click here to view CWR’s water report under “Product Details” on their popular Crown Triple AIO Undercounter Ultra Water Filter with Metalgon.
Don’t go with your “standard fluoride water filter”, they don’t work anymore.
According to decades of research, fluoride is a neurotoxin which has been shown to affect brain development and IQ in children10. It is associated with a variety of other chronic ailments11. For this reason, some companies offer activated-alumni-based fluoride filters…and those used to work on the older forms of fluoride.
Dr. Speiser explains: Most water filters aren’t rated for fluoride, if they say they take it out and they’re using activated aluminum, they’re not working.
“That’s because the fluoride used today is a new form called fluorosilicic acid (also known as: hydrofluorosilicate, FSA, or HFS), which is harder to filter out than what they used several years ago. “A reverse osmosis (RO) membrane is better, but doesn’t remove it completely. Our new MetalgonTM technology reduces 92% of fluoride from water at 0.8 ppm with one filter and close to 99% removal with two Metalgon filters; the filter material also reduces lead, chlorine, chloramine, and many heavy metals.”
Look for a 1 micron absolute-rated ceramic filter to remove parasites and bacteria.
“Because surface water sources in the United States have parasites and bacteria, you want a ceramic filter. A typical loose-carbon water filter pitcher will allow parasites to swim right through.” Per Dr. Speiser, a high quality carbon block can keep parasites out, but ceramic filters keep live parasites and bacteria out most effectively for longer use due to its’ smaller porous nature. Ceramic is also cleanable and because a small amount of silver is baked into the ceramic material, it prevents re-growth of trapped bacteria. Ceramic is also cleanable and prevents re-growth of parasites and bacteria.
Don’t buy a standard whole house water filter.
Another recommendation by Dr. Speiser, “Many companies overcharge for their generic systems, which may include a carbon filter, water softener, and basic RO filter, with no regard for city or local well-specific contaminants. And that’s a waste of money because we know one size does not fit all.”
Step 3: Compare the Best Water Filter Models For Your Home and Budget
Your next task is to decide on the best water purification model for your household needs and budget.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of water filters available:
Countertop filters—affordable, low-maintenance, and great for apartments and rentals. The key is to look for multi-filter systems that remove fluoride, heavy metals, etc.
Under the sink filters—great for established households and easy on the budget. These take up less room than countertop filters and can be customized with multiple filters to remove specific toxins substances.
Reverse Osmosis filters—one of the best, filter technologies available to remove a wide variety of contaminants. They’re more pricey than under-the-sink filters, and do use more water due to water rejection aspects of the technology.
Note: RO water is devoid of minerals, so it’s best to add a pinch of good quality sea salt like Celtic Salt or Pink Himalayan salt per gallon of water.
Gravity-fed countertop filters—these percolator-style filters are an excellent choice for those desiring a portable, affordable filter. Look for 100% stainless steel, clean the spigot often to prevent mold or residue, and be sure to choose a model with an effective fluoride filter. Overall, testing water and getting the appropriate filter is always optimal to a generic filter.
Note: some gravity-fed water filters require maintenance to keep water filtering efficiently, such as periodically cleaning the filters. Our Branch Basics favorite is CWRs Gravity Filter.
Whole house filters—the ultimate in water filtration, whole house filters are an ideal choice for those who wish to simultaneously remove contaminants from their drinking, cooking, and bathing water using one system. They should be customized to remove a range of contaminants, not just chlorine.
Note: these are the most costly systems.
Shower/bath filters—if you can’t afford a whole house filter, we highly highly recommend using separate bath and shower filters. In fact, you can reduce up to 30% of your chlorine exposure by filtering your bathing water, and this is especially important for children. Dr. Speiser’s company, CWR Environmental Protection Products, can even custom-design a variety of water filtration models based on your water report.
Step 4: Marilee's Tips on Removing Other Sneaky Home Sources of Water Toxicity
We’ve covered a lot on how to choose the best water filter for your home, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one other sneaky source of water contamination lurking in most households:
Plastic water bottles—plastic water bottles, even BPA-free ones, pollute otherwise healthy water with a cocktail endocrine-disrupting, cancer-causing chemicals. This can be avoided by using reusable glass water bottles like Lifefactory®—glass bottles with shatter-resistant silicone sleeves, or Glasstic—glass water bottles protected by a plastic outer shell. If you have bottled water delivered for use in a cooler, look for brands sold in glass containers like Mountain Valley Spring, and use with a ceramic or stainless steel cooler.
Baby bottles—for glass baby bottles, we like LifeFactory or Boob Joovy.
While the state of America’s water leaves much to be desired, you are now empowered with all the tools and information you need to protect you and your family from toxic water at home.
Related Read: How to Prevent and Minimize Damage from Water Leaks
We’d like to thank Dr. Roy Speiser for his insight and expertise on this topic, and encourage you to visit his website at: www.cwrenviro.com and research his products. Use promo code: BRANCH for 10% off all water filtration products and systems. If you are unable to afford a new water purification system at this time, stay tuned for an article featuring quick, economical solutions so you can start drinking and bathing in great water right away.
Keep our water safe! Use non-toxic, biodegradable products, like Branch Basics' Dishwasher Tablets and the Trial Kit. For more cleaning tips, check out our guide to essential cleaning tools.
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.