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Do I Need To Filter My Water?

by: Jamie Foti MS, RDN, IFNCP  |  March 18, 2024

You’ve no doubt heard many people advocating for getting a water filter, but is this something that you need, or is it just a marketing gimmick? Let’s start by going over what tap water is and how it gets to you. The water that comes out of your tap comes either from ground water or surface water, terms that indicate if the water has collected under the earth or in bodies of water. In order to be made drinking quality, this water goes through purification processes that first remove larger molecules and contaminants. This is accomplished by creating porous filters that prevent larger molecules from flowing through, effectively removing those from the water. Once the water has been passed through these filters, it can be processed in a variety of ways, all of which push the water through even smaller membranes to remove smaller contaminants. After this water has been filtered, it is disinfected with chemical disinfectants, mostly chlorine-based, to remove any remaining pathogens like bacteria or viruses. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of toxic chemicals or additives that can remain in the water that makes its way to your house. 

So Is Tap Water OK For Me To Drink?

Though there are regulations on the substances allowed in drinking water, it has been found that almost 2/3rd of American households have drinking water with at least one level of toxic contaminants that are above safe limits. For instance, the toxic chemical arsenic was found to be above the legal limit of 10ug/L in water systems across all fifty states, affecting around 10 million people, particularly those of lower economic status. Arsenic largely makes its way into our water system from agricultural runoff and can cause a variety of health issues such as developmental delays in children and can contribute to risk of cancer development. Even chlorine, which is used to disinfect the water, can be toxic when consumed in high doses. Elevated chlorine consumption has been linked to an increased risk of developing GI cancers, as well as increased risk of birth defects and cardiovascular events. Another issue with chlorine is that it can bind to microplastics found in water, creating reactive oxygen species that can perpetuate cellular damage and antioxidant depletion. Finally, PFAS (short for perfluoroalkyl & polyfluoroalkyl substacles), often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they take hundreds if not thousands of years to break down, have been found in increasingly high numbers in water due to contamination from plastics, non-stick cookware, and other chemically treated products. These PFAS circulate in the bloodstream, accumulating in liver and kidney tissue, contributing to issues such as elevated cholesterol, liver tumors, or immune system damage. The issue with PFAS is that since they are relatively new, the EPA has yet to determine safe limits of exposure to these chemicals and what has been proposed is largely controversial. Along with the chemicals listed, over 270 other contaminants can be found in tap water in unsafe amounts depending on the location.

The issue isn’t just from the water either. In fact, pipes can be a large source of contamination, even if the water has been adequately treated. Old pipes can leach lead into water, leading to unsafe concentrations of this metal in your tap water. Lead exposure can lead to severe iron depletion, creating irreversible developmental delays in children. It can also leach minerals from bones, impacting skeletal health. 

Do I Need A Water Filter?

So where does this leave you? In an ideal world, you want to invest in a high-quality water filter that has been marked as NSF Certified to indicate that it actually is filtering out the toxins that it promises to filter. Many water filters on the market simply remove the chlorine and other large molecules to improve the taste of drinking water without removing many of the other contaminants. The highest quality water filters are reverse osmosis, such as the AquaTru filter. Reverse osmosis is a water filtration method that pushes water through an ultra-fine membrane to remove both large and small contaminants. While this kind of filtration will remove most major toxins, it also removes some of the minerals from your water that help with optimal hydration. To maintain optimal hydration while drinking filtered water, it is best to remineralize your water with mineral drops such as Trace Minerals.

If you are curious to see the quality of your drinking water, you can use the Is My Water Safe link to find which contaminants may be present in your drinking water and if you would benefit from a high-quality water filter.

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