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This extreme yet real-life example shows that depending on where you receive your tap water from, there might be contaminants present in it that pose a serious threat to your health.
In the case of Flint, the water was contaminated with poisonous lead, a neurotoxin that was long used as a building material for pipes. Studies conducted in recent years have linked it to causing brain disorders and damage to kidneys and red blood cells. Lead is also particularly dangerous for unborn babies as well as infants and young children as it is responsible for:
The example also underlines that just because an issue has been exposed does not mean that it will get solved immediately. After all, Flint residents had to wait another eight long months for the water supplier switch to happen.
What’s Really Shocking
USA Today has reported that they identified about 2,000 water supply systems in all 50 U.S. states where tests have shown severe contamination with lead between the years 2013 and 2016.
The Detroit Free Press states that hundreds of major U.S. cities still have 100% lead piping connecting municipal water utilities to homes.
And according to the Guardian, at least 33 U.S. cities have been found to use cheats to conceal dangerous levels of lead in their water.
Lead is colorless and odorless, and if traces of it are dissolved in water, they are invisible to the naked eye. So, if there is lead in your tap water, how can you find out about it?
Lead does not evenly distribute in water. This means that you could test your water right now and find 2 ppb of lead. 5 minutes later, you’ll find 10 ppb and the next day you suddenly have 1,000 ppb. So even a direct test cannot give you any guarantee for lead-free water.
How to remove lead from water and get rid of it? Is there a wait of filtering it out?
Yes, there is. The simplest way of removing lead from water is by using a water filter. There are systems that are certified to removing lead by up to 98%. But first, you should try to identify the source that contaminates your water and remove it. In case you receive your water from a private well, have a licensed contractor check the well itself and the pump.
If removing the lead source turns out to be too expensive, the CDC recommends to flush your water system before using any water for drinking and cooking. The longer the water has been sitting in the pipes, the more lead it’s likely to contain. So, if a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or more, just let the water run for 1-2 minutes or until it becomes as cold as it will get.
Now, obviously this wastes a lot of water, but you can still use it to water your garden, etc. The CDC also advises against using hot tap water as it dissolves more lead than cold water.
You want to play it safe and install a water filter in your home? These filtration methods are best suited for lead removal:
NSF International Standard 53 Certifications
Look out for NSF International Standard 53 certifications that ensure that a filter removes mercury, cadmium, and asbestos, and most importantly lead. NSF International is a not-for-profit organization that develops industry standards. Independent third-party testing agencies such as the Water Quality Association (WQA) or CSA then certify specific products on the market to these standards.
To get certified, a filter must be able to reduce the amount of lead dissolved in water below 15 ppb, which is the legal limit.
Lead enters our water systems via copper pipes and fixtures connected by corroding lead solder, or via pipes that directly contain lead, which applies in particular to homes built before 1986. Another adverse factor is acidic water with low mineral content that accelerates corrosion.
If you, too, are fighting against elevated lead levels, we have the right solution for you. There are home water filters out there that are particularly effective in removing it.
Yes, RO systems are capable of removing 94% to 98.6% of lead from water. Here are our top 3 favorite systems:
Top #1 RO System: Home Master TMAFC
Read Our Review
Most Affordable: iSpring RCC7 System
Read Our Review
Most regular filter pitchers and dispensers, like the Brita Standard that uses coconut-based activated carbon in combination with an ion exchange resin, reduce lead levels slightly, but are rarely effective enough to provide water safe for drinking. However, the new Brita Longlast™ filter is WQA certified to remove 99% of lead for up to 120 gallons of water.
120 gallons will last most families for about six months before the filter cartridge needs replacement, which is a far longer time span than most competitor pitchers can provide.
Apart from lead, the Brita Longlast is certified to remove 10 other contaminants including pharmaceuticals that have started to occur in our water supply systems more frequently in the recent past.
Sadly, Brita does not currently ship the Longlast with any of its pitchers. However, it fits in almost all existing Brita pitchers as a drop-in replacement. In case you don’t own one already, here is our top choice on Amazon: Brita 10 Cup Everyday Water Pitcher
Apart from filter pitchers, Brita offers this faucet filter, which also is NSF certified to remove 99% of lead: Brita On Tap Basic Water Faucet Filtration System
Besides the Brita Longlast, there are only two other filter pitchers that we would consider buying and that are capable of removing lead from water in sufficient quantities to earn a NSF 53 certification. The first model is the ZeroWater ZP-010. However, this one doesn’t come without flaws, as it’s very challenging to remove the lid making the refilling an inconvenient and time-consuming procedure.
Above that, it might happen that the filter falls out, when you try to pour out the last sip of water. You should also consider that the ZeroWater ZP-010 is certified to remove 3 different contaminants only, as opposed to the 10 contaminants the Brita Longlast removes.
To top it off, the ZeroWater filter needs replacement after a mere 10-15 gallons versus 120 gallons for the Longlast, however, both are equally expensive. If you do the maths, you end up paying about $135 for 9 filter cartridges and 120 gallons of filtered water compared to $15.
The second water filter pitcher is sold by Aquagear. The seller claims that it has been tested to remove 99.9% of lead (check out the Amazon product page and convince yourself) among many other contaminants, which is simply mind-blowing.
It can hold up to 2.7 gallons of water and the filter needs replacement about every 3-6 months. The only drawback: The pitcher itself costs about $70 at regular price. Replacement filters are priced around $50.
PUR offers a wide range of filter pitchers, faucet mounted filters, and refrigerator filters. In a recent test, a PUR filter pitcher was able to reduce the amount of dissolved lead in drinking water from 20 ppb to about 7 ppb, which is just not effective enough to guarantee water safe for cooking and drinking.
In any case, the PUR Advanced Faucet Water Filter is again NSF certified to reduce the amount of 70 different impurities in water, including 99% of lead and 96% of mercury (see a full list of contaminants here). This is also the exact same faucet filter that was given to Flint residents in January 2016 to combat the water crisis!
Also, if taking into account usability, we believe that a faucet mounted filter wins over a filter pitcher at any time.
What we don’t like is that a small proportion of customers have experienced problems after about 6-10 months of using the PUR faucet filter, as all of a sudden it stopped working and started to spurt water. We believe the main problem are the sub-standard materials that are being used, which can lead to the developing of hair line cracks making the product unusable.
One of our readers recently reached out to us and asked, if it is possible to boil lead out of water. Unfortunately, it is not. While boiling water kills waterborne pathogens, lead does not evaporate easily and the heating process can actually further increase lead concentration. What you can do, however, is use a distiller that collects the water vapor in a cooling coil.