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No Filter: The Dirty Truth About Water

Navigate the murky waters of filtered versus tap.

| December 2nd, 2011
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No Filter: The Dirty Truth About Water

Are you a steadfast Brita-user, or do you go tap all the way? If you’re set in your ways, it’s worth taking a closer look at what filtering can do for your water.

With clean water being a scarce commodity in many areas of the world, it’s worth pointing out that if you have the privilege of debating between using a filter or just drinking what comes from your faucet, it’s probably not a matter of life and death.

With that perspective in mind, how to get the cleanest water possible is a confusing journey.

We’ll help you navigate the waters of your local H20 supply, so you don’t get caught in a tide of confusing messages about what’s unsafe to drink, and deliver you the facts so you could avoid stomach upset when you travel, and maintain healthy drinking habits at home.

MORE: How Much Water Do You Need to Drink?

Sip Smart

Reusing water bottles could lead to plastic leaching into your water. Try a water bottle with a filter, like the Bobble. It’s free of BPA, Phthalates and PVC.

1. What does your water filter do?

“Filtering water is a process that removes particles, or color, or chemicals or pathogens from water suspected to be ‘dirty.’ It may be visualized as a sponge that removes the contaminant of interest, while the water that passes through is safe to consume,” says Konstantinos Makris, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at the Cyprus University of Technology, which is associated with the Harvard School of Public Health.

The popular Brita water filter uses activated carbon and ion exchange resin to attract contaminants like copper, mercury and cadmium, so they stick to the filter while the rest of the water trickles on by. Why do people do it? In excess, contaminants can cause damage.

Cadmium and mercury, for instance, come from runoff sources like factories or refineries (even batteries) and high amounts can lead to kidney damage in the long-term. Copper from corroded household plumbing and eroded natural deposits can cause stomach upset in the short-term, and liver or kidney damage over time. The filter not only decreases the presence of these chemicals, but also takes out the odor and taste of chlorine to make for a crisper taste.

MORE: Is Your Hard Water Causing Acne?

Courtesy of Bobble
Bobble jug

“A common mistake with consumers buying filters is that they often buy the wrong filters; you need to know before buying the filters what you want to remove from your water source. Filters do not remove all contaminants, but only specific classes of them,” Dr. Makris says.

The new Bobble jug is like the Brita pitcher, but additionally filters out lead, which in high amounts could lead to developmental delays in children, and high blood pressure in adults. If you live in a house that is very old or very new, you may have lead solder in your pipes. If you’re house is even older, you may have lead pipes!

For the Brita and Bobble filters you must still run “potable water” through them, or drinking water that’s pure enough to consume on its own, with low risk of immediate or long-term harm.

MORE: Learn about the various filters available to you.

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