Should You Filter Your Water?
Q: Are there any benefits from drinking filtered water as opposed to municipal tap water?
A: The short answer is yes. While the Environmental Protection Agency regulates municipal tap water and sets legal limits on certain contaminants, and most water utilities generally stay within these limits, “some of the legal limits may be too lenient,” said Paul Pestano, a research analyst with the Environmental Working Group. And more than half of the chemicals found in municipal water are not regulated.
Using the right water filter can help further reduce pollutants like lead from old water pipes, pesticide runoff in rural areas and byproducts of chemicals like chlorine that are used to treat drinking water. Radon, arsenic and nitrates are common pollutants in drinking water, and trace amounts of drugs including antibiotics and hormones have also been found. Certain filters may help remove these impurities as well.
But water contaminants and water quality vary from one local water utility to another, so you want to purchase a filter that is effective at capturing the right contaminants. You can request a copy of your water utility’s annual water quality report – called a right-to-know or consumer confidence report — to find out which contaminants in your local water are of concern. Some utilities will also run a free lead test on your tap water. You can then choose a filter that is certified by NSF International, an independent public health organization that assesses products. Note that it is not enough to buy or install a filter; you need to replace or maintain filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Filtering tap water may be even more important if you are pregnant, older, have young children or suffer from a chronic illness or compromised immune system.
Bottled filtered water is also available, but most environmental groups discourage use of bottled water because of the waste generated; in addition, bottled water is not regulated as stringently as municipal tap water, and contaminants can leach from damaged or overheated plastic into the water.