What’s in Our Tap Water & How to Filter Out Contaminants

water filters reviews

In Australia alone, over 300 chemicals are added to water supplies to help disinfect and kill any microorganisms that may cause disease. Some of these chemicals include chlorine, ammonia, fluoride and aluminium. Our tap water is only monitored for 70 chemicals, so the other 300+ known chemicals are unregulated and may be of great concern.

Many of us realise that the quality of our drinking water may not be ideal, but are resigned to the fact that these chemicals must be added to ensure safe drinking water. Plus, for most of us, fresh running streams filled with pure, natural, untouched water are a little hard to come by, so tap water is really the only other source of ongoing drinking water for us to choose from.

However, just because tap water may meet federal safety guidelines, this doesn’t mean it’s actually safe to drink.

Some common contaminants found in Australian tap water included chlorine, fluoride, Trihalomethanes (THMs) like chloroform, chromium-6 (the chemical talked about in the movie “Erin Brockovich”, which is a carcinogenic), heavy metals like arsenic, radium, aluminium, copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, and barium, hormones and pharmaceuticals, nitrates, pesticides, microplastics, carcinogens, and the “forever chemical” PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

According to an article by Dr. Axe:

PFAS chemicals are man-made chemicals that have so far been found in the drinking water of more than 2,000 communities. They are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. These chemicals have been linked to harmful human health effects, including cancer, reproductive and developmental harms, and weakened immune systems.

PFAS chemicals have been detected in the drinking water sources of all major Australian cities, yet the Australian Government still refuses to ban the use of PFAS chemicals in Australia. PFAS are a group of hundreds of compounds, some of which are used in fire-fighting foams used at airports, military bases and industrial areas. In the home, it’s found in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing, furniture and carpeting, and water-resistant products.

But, what’s even more concerning is that PFAS contamination is now so widespread it’s been detected in the Arctic and even in rain, so using a simple water filter isn’t enough to prevent contact with this toxic chemical.

Volatile organic compounds or chemicals (VOCs) from products such as pesticides, herbicides, paints, aerosol sprays, and other chemicals, have been found in most tap water sources (even in other sources like wells) due to agricultural run-off and contamination. VOCs have been linked to certain cancers, and can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, reproductive system and more.

Heavy metals like lead, arsenic and aluminium have been found to contaminate drinking water supplies and have been linked to many health problems. Arsenic has been linked to cancers of the skin, lungs, bladder, liver, and kidneys, among others. According to Dr. Axe:

Lead can negatively affect the absorption of calcium leading to potential bone, teeth, muscle, nerve and blood vessel issues. It also harms the body’s creation of blood cells. At high levels, lead can even lead to kidney and brain damage.

Aluminium can impact brain function, decrease energy levels, and cause damage to organs like the kidneys and liver.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals have also been detected in water sources and include bisphenols and phthalates from microplastics, disinfection by-products like trihalomethanes (THMs), pesticides, chlorine, and synthetic estrogens from products like the contraceptive pill, which women excrete through their urine or faeces.

Pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, opiates, and hormones have also been found in water supplies worldwide.

water filters reviews
water filters reviews
water filters reviews

Fluoride is probably one of the most controversial contaminants in water because it is intentionally added to water as a way to help prevent tooth decay. However, according to Wellness Mama:

If fluoride has any benefit, it would be directly to the teeth, as drinking the fluoride has not been statistically shown to increase oral health at all. Additionally, fluoride has been linked to thyroid problems and other disorders when consumed internally.

In another article she shares that:

In the early part of the twentieth century, it was discovered that small communities who had higher levels of naturally occurring fluoride in their drinking water had fewer dental caries (cavities). Naturally fluoridated water at about 1mg/L seemed to be beneficial to dental health. (Fluoride that is naturally occurring is calcium fluoride.)

Unfortunately, the fluoride that is often added to water supplies in the U.S. is hydrofluoric acid (an industrial by-product), not elemental fluorine or calcium fluoride. It’s well known that naturally occurring substances (even heavy metals) are generally better tolerated by the body than synthetic counterparts.

But because early studies showed few dental caries in communities using fluoridated water, fluoridated water became known as one of 10 best public health achievements of the twentieth century according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

However, rates of dental caries have been going down for all western countries, both using fluoridation and not, suggesting that there is no connection between fluoridated water and fewer cavities.

For example, Sweden does not fluoridate its water and has the same amount of dental caries as the United States. Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Arvid Carlsson argued against its use in Sweden by saying that topical use of fluoride may work for dental caries but drinking fluoride was not a good idea, especially when you consider that the amount any individual consumes can vary quite a bit…

Though some earlier studies showed that fluoride in the water supply can help reduce dental caries, a 2015 Cochrane review found that the most recent and comprehensive evidence shows that there is simply not enough evidence to support fluoridating water.

Though fluoride may help prevent cavities when used topically, there are other (better) ways to improve oral health without fluoride.

Fluoride has been linked to causing disruptions to the body’s central nervous system, and may increase your risk of developing some cancers and even diabetes.

water filters reviews
water filters reviews

How to Check Your Water

Checking your local water quality report allows you to see what contaminants are in your water supply. This is helpful to know when choosing a water filter that’s right for you and ensuring you purchase one that filters out the contaminants you need.

You can find your local water report by either checking your local water company’s website, as the report should be publicly available, or if that doesn’t work, Googling the name of your city and “water quality report” may help make it available to find.

Bottled Water Isn’t Always Better

Manufacturers who provide bottled water aren’t actually required to disclose the level of contaminants in their water, and in some cases, it’s usually just bottled tap water. In Australia, tap water has undergone stringent testing and regulations to ensure it’s safe to drink, while bottled water on the other hand is classified as a food product and doesn’t require the same level of testing, meaning the quality and mineral content can vary depending on the brand.

Bottled water in Australia costs about 2,900 times that of tap water, but according to the NRDC, “An estimated 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle.

Furthermore, as bottled water is packed in plastic, chemicals like bisphenols and phthalates leach from the plastic into the water inside.

As I mentioned earlier, these chemicals are endocrine disruptors and mimic the hormone oestrogen, interfering with the body’s natural hormone levels which can lead to weight gain, hormone imbalances, infertility, and cancer.

BPA also triggers the release of nearly double the amount of insulin actually required by the body to break down food. If these high insulin levels persist, the body can become desensitised to insulin, leading to insulin resistance, weight gain and even type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, BPAs are linked to health problems like infertility, obesity, heart disease, allergies, asthma, liver toxicity, breast, ovarian and prostate cancer, and neurological problems such as ADHD.

You can check to see if your bottled water is in fact just plain tap water by reading the label. If it says the water has comes from a “municipal source,” “P.W.S.” (public water source) or from a “community water system,” it’s tap water. If it says “spring water,” that’s good.

I personally stay away from bottled water unless travelling overseas where I know the water isn’t safe for me to drink, as plastic water bottles are a major source of plastic pollution each year. Just in Australia alone, around 373 million plastic water bottles end up in landfill each year. This is because Australia recycles only around 36% of PET plastic drink bottles.

What to Look for in a Water Filter

Once you know what contaminants you need to remove by checking your local water quality report, you can get started on choosing the best water filter option for your home. There are many options available for any budget. There are filters that just take out the basics like chlorine or fluoride, right up to ones that remove all contaminants and remineralise the water itself!

Below are a few options on water filters that I’ve researched to help get you started. Some I’ve used myself, others have had high reviews by well-trusted sources.

Pitcher Water Filters

This type of water filter has been the one my family has used for years, and the one I used before moving out of home. Pitcher filters will help to filter out and reduce the amount of chlorine in the water, but aren’t really effective at removing VOCs, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors or fluoride. This is also including faucet mount external filters, which use a similar technology.

They are less expensive than other water filter options upfront, but the filter requires frequent cartridge replacement making them more expensive in the long run.

If you can, opt for a high-quality filtration system like a Berkey water filter as it’s a much better alternative, but if you don’t have the space or the budget right now, water pitchers like the Soma Plant Based Filter system, Clearly Filtered, and ZeroWater 10-Cup Pitcher with Filter are good options. For a water bottle, LifeStraw have a filter installed in the lid of the bottle which filters out bacteria, parasites and microplastics.

Charcoal Stick Water Filters

This has become my water filtration method for the time being as these charcoal sticks are completely compostable, reusable, last for months, and can be used in any pitcher or water bottle to help remove contaminants in the same way that many pitcher water filters do. These charcoal sticks take approximately 1-8 hours to filter the water, depending on the quantity of water they’re placed in. This is ideal for those filtering water for just 1-2 people.

water filters reviews
water filters reviews

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

Reverse Osmosis filtration uses a membrane that can trap any molecule bigger than water. This technology is more effective than carbon filters as it can remove fluoride. However, a lot of water is rejected in the process, meaning gallons of water can often be wasted. Plus, naturally occurring minerals like calcium and magnesium are also removed from the water. However, you can add trace minerals back into the water to replace the ones that were filtered out. This type of filtration system can help reduce contaminants such as arsenic, asbestos, heavy metals, and fluoride.

Shawn Stevenson shares a valuable point about the importance of mineral content in water in his book, Eat Smarter:

In nature, water is always moving from a place of less concentrated solution (where there’s more water and less minerals) to a place of more concentrated solution (where there’s more minerals and less water). Water is driven to go where it’s needed. That’s why, on the other side, not having enough minerals/salts in your water can hurt you, too. Remember, in nature, you won’t find blank H2O anywhere. Humans evolved drinking H2O with minerals/salts dissolved in it. Albeit, in small amounts, but those small amounts matter!

Chugging down distilled water or water that’s had all of the minerals filtered out of it creates a situation where, now, the higher concentration of minerals is inside the cell. So, water keeps getting pulled from the extracellular fluid into the cell in droves. Your extracellular fluid is now being dehydrated, and as you keep chugging this blank water trying to address your thirst, all the water being pulled into the cell can potentially make some of your cells explode!…

Here’s the bottom line: You need water that has some minerals in it. If you use a water filtration system like reverse osmosis or distillation, you simply need to add some minerals/salts to the water that you’re going to drink to give it some structure. This could be in the form of ionic mineral drops or high-quality salts… Another way is through adding some fresh fruits or veggies to the water (like lemon, lime, mint, etc.). These plants provide minerals and electrons to the water that gives it a charge and structure as well. These minerals are in a natural, low concentration, so they inherently make it more hydrating.

If you’re looking for a natural water source that isn’t from the tap, natural spring water is a great source of structured water with a (generally) healthy level of minerals. Water that has come from a spring has naturally been filtered by the earth, itself, and prior to humans being able to “treat” our own water, this was one of the main sources of water used, and settlements were often built around natural springs.

The reason reverse osmosis (RO) systems work so well at filtering water is they push water through a very tight membrane that’s approximately .0001 microns in size, while bacteria is about .4 microns and many drug residues and pesticides are about a similar size, too, so it’s quite effective at filtering out many contaminants.

But, it’s important to remember that if you’re using a RO or distillation to filter your water, you need to add some minerals back in to that water to ensure it’s been remineralised.

Solid Block Carbon Filters

Quality carbon block filters will remove chemicals, pesticides, bacteria, fluoride (with the filter attachment), heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites, and parasites, and they come available in many sizes for different uses (such as while out camping to filter river water for drinking). These types of filters also don’t remove naturally occurring minerals found in the water. The EPA recognises it as the best option for removing chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, and VOCs, and it can safely transform any type of water into safe drinking water including rain water, pond water and even sea water (though the filters will clog much more quickly if using these types of water). Berkey, one of the most common types of this filter, was actually recommended to me by Marla Pietruszko H.D. BSc R.H.N and I’m currently saving for one to use in my home!

Most carbon block filters are gravity based so will work even without electricity or running water. Plus, they’re portable so you can travel with them.

While these types of filters are more expensive up front, they appear to be the least expensive over the long term and require the fewest filter replacements (which is something I really look for as it means less waste). They don’t, however, remove endocrine disruptors and there have been recent reports indicating that these filters may not remove fluoride as well as they claim (something to keep in mind).

Under Counter Multi-Stage Filters

This type of filter is probably one of the best I’ve come across as it removes fluoride, lead, chlorine, MTBE, chromium-6, nitrates, pesticides, pharmaceutical residues, water-borne illness and more by filtering water through a 14-stage process. It even adds minerals back into the water! According to the Radiant Life website, the 14 stages of purification are as follows:

Stage 1 – Filtration – Five Micron Sediment Pre-Filter
Stage 2 – Filtration – Internal Coconut Shell Carbon Filter
Stage 3 – Purification – Reverse Osmosis Membrane
Stage 4 – Purification – Mixed Bed De-Ionization System 1
Stage 5 – Purification – Mixed Bed De-Ionization System 2
Stage 6 – Holding Tank
Stage 7 – Sterilization – 14 Watt Ultraviolet Light
Stages 8 & 9 – Restructuring – Homeopathic Memory, Molecule Coherence
Stage 10 – Reprogramming – Adding Natural Mineral Properties
Stage 11 – Reprogramming – Adding Natural Earth Properties
Stage 12 – Reprogramming – Lowering Surface Tension
Stage 13 & 14 – Remineralizing – Coconut Shell Carbon Post-Filtration and Alka-Min Ionic Remineralization

Having clean drinking water is one the most important things you can do for your health, so having a reliable, high-quality water filter is so important. I hope this helps you in your decision making on what water filter to buy for your home.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post. 

What type of water filtration system do you use at home? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources

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