Let’s play a quick game of myth vs. fact. We’ll cover the scary truth about bottled water, the fallacies surrounding filters, and the terrors living in your tap (among other things). This isn’t to scare you. It’s to educate you. Armed with the right information about your water, you can make the decision to carry on as is, or do more to protect your health, your family, and your future.
Let’s get rolling...
Myth: Smell, taste, & color tell you everything about water quality.
Fact: Many harmful chemicals in your water can’t be detected by your senses.
Sure, chlorine affects taste and odor. That’s why you catch a whiff every time you hit the pool. And you’ve certainly been freaked out by discolored water before. It’s likely due to dirt and sediment. True story: You can make your water smell good by leaving it out for an hour or two. And you can make it look good by whipping up your own filter with a sock or t-shirt. But do those things scream safe to you?
There are hundreds of dangers lurking in your water that you’ll never be able to see, smell, or taste. Lead is the poster child for this. And that alone should be scary enough to keep you from believing that your senses — as strong as they may be — can give you a trustworthy read on water quality.
Myth: Filters remove healthy nutrients & minerals.
Fact: Some filters remove healthy nutrients & minerals.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one. There’s some truth to it: Water contains beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium. And some filtration systems don’t have the smarts to recognize the good from the bad, discarding both for the sake of “purity.” We won’t name names, but we will name types: Reverse osmosis systems are the culprits here, as are other systems that claim zero total dissolved solids (TDS). Sure, water comes out pure. But during the process, the good stuff is stripped away too.
Unfortunately, demineralized water — AKA water without magnesium, calcium, and other beneficial nutrients — can potentially be associated with pregnancy disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more. That’s why savvy reverse osmosis manufacturers have turned to remineralizing. This final step in the filtration process adds some of the minerals that were tossed out back into the water post-purification. But there’s a far less complicated way to keep healthy nutrients and minerals in your water...
Invest in premium filtration technology that recognizes what should stay and what should go from the jump. Our Affinity Filtration Technology, as an example, ensures you don’t have to waste time, money, and water on remineralizing… all because your filter got it right the first time around.
Myth: Bottled water is better than tap water.
Fact: Bottled water can be tested less than tap water.
When it comes to water quality, bottled water has wiggle room galore. Unlike tap water, which is regulated by the EPA, bottled water is regulated by the FDA. Therefore, bottled water qualifies as food. Chew on that. This strange classification comes with heavy implications on water quality: The FDA reportedly does less frequent quality testing than the EPA. And to make matters worse, bottled water has a checkered past:
- In 2008, the Environmental Working Group uncovered 10 U.S. bottled water brands containing mixtures of 38 different pollutants ranging from Tylenol to fertilizer.
- In 2011, nicotine was found in bottled mineral water produced in Spain.
- In 2015, 14 bottled water brands sold in popular chains like 7-Eleven and Wegmans recalled their water due to E. coli concerns. That same year, Aquafina and Dasani admitted their water originates from the same source as tap water.
- In 2020, Consumer Reports revealed 43 of 47 bottled water brands tested contained PFAS. These are the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tap water throughout the U.S.
And let’s not brush over concerns with the packaging. Exposure to plastic, BPA, and phthalates can be linked to diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer. So it’s no wonder San Francisco banned plastic bottles. All that to say: There’s no guarantee your bottled water is any better than your tap water. In fact, it could be the same thing. You might be paying a premium for tap water tossed in a bottle as manufacturers laugh their way to the bank. Yikes.
Myth: Fluoride is harmless... & filters can’t remove it anyway.
Fact: Fluoride has health risks… & you can sidestep them with the right filter.
Those in the know tend to seek out filters that remove fluoride, which can be admittedly difficult. Whereas, the uninformed are fixated on the benefits of fluoride. If the chemical conjures up memories of the dental chair, it’s because it can help improve oral health. But in large doses, it has the power to do more harm than good; causing white spots on teeth, weakened immune systems, and joint pain and stiffness from skeletal fluorosis.
But that’s not all: There’s reason to believe overexposure to fluoride can impact brain development in children as data has shown significantly lower IQ scores for kids who live in high-fluoride areas compared to those in low-fluoride areas. In fact, the U.S. Public Health Service lowered their maximum recommendation for fluoride concentration in public drinking water systems in 2015. While they touted the oral health benefits of the chemical, decreasing the maximum recommended rate shows they too have concerns about overexposure. Basic carbon filters remove trace amounts of fluoride, at best. Unlike our competitors, we have filtration systems that remove superior levels of fluoride without a secondary filter or separate unit.
Myth: Tap water is safe to drink.
Fact: Tap water is risky.
Sure, there are checks and balances. Regulations and required reporting cover the basics. But errors, accidents, and surprises happen all the time. Look no further than Flint, Michigan, for a recent example that got all kinds of media attention. In Paden City, West Virginia, records show water has been polluted for 10 years. Yet an EPA investigation is still ongoing as of September, 2020. And natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes can have an immediate and lasting impact on water quality without being in your backyard.
Tap water is a rabbit hole we won’t crawl too far down. The fact is this: Copper, lead, arsenic, rocket fuel, fecal waste, and chemical by-products are found in tap water all the time. That’s not to say regulators are sitting on their hands. But the system isn’t perfect. New contaminants are constantly emerging, many of which are unregulated. And plenty go unnoticed. Just because there aren’t advisories in your area, doesn’t mean your tap water is safe.
Myth: Ok, but water can’t kill you...
Fact: Tap water has had a hand in deaths.
Not so fast. Tap water has correlated to deaths for decades. And some are close to home. Here’s proof of 13 deaths in the U.S. from 2013-14 influenced by tap water. And let’s not forget: Dozens died in Flint, making way for PBS to air an investigation aptly titled “Flint’s Deadly Water.”
This chart, though not focused solely on tap water, paints a scary picture. It depicts deaths around the world due to “unsafe water.” And modeling has suggested 76 million people will die from preventable water-related diseases from 2000-2020. To assume water can’t kill you simply isn’t true. Enough said.You will find more infographics at Statista.
Myth: Filters waste water.
Fact: Some filters waste water.
Reverse osmosis systems are notorious for wasting water. They can filter out as much as 75% of the water they purify. That means only 25% of what you put in comes out clean. But it’s not fair to let RO systems ruin it for the rest of us. These systems qualify as “purifiers”, and as such, they pull the good and the bad (as discussed previously), which leads to gallons of waste.
However, there are all kinds of filters, from standard charcoal or carbon options to more advanced options like our filtration systems, that only discard a negligible amount of water — if any. And any drops these filters set aside are pulled with purpose; they typically contain harmful contaminants or other dangers you don’t want to sip on.
Myth: All water filters do the same thing.
Fact: It all depends on the filter.
Almost all filters — including DIY options — can remove dirt, silt, sand, and sediment. Beyond that, results vary. The basic charcoal or carbon filters most of us are familiar with — whether they be built into our fridges or tossed in a pitcher — remove a handful of common impurities that affect odor, taste, and color. Meanwhile, more advanced options like ours eliminate 232+ contaminants including those you can’t see, smell, or taste.
Choose wisely: PFAs, fluoride, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, herbicides and more could be lurking in your water, even if you’re filtering every drop (more on that in a minute). Our opinion: The safest water is actually free from contamination but still maintains its beneficial nutrients and minerals.
Myth: Chlorine is harmless.
Fact: Chlorine is harmful.
Chlorine is used to treat tap water. It kills disease-causing viruses and bacteria before they reach your home. The problem? It’s downright dangerous in high doses. And it can react with naturally occurring organic compounds to create hazardous by-products. After all, chlorine can be linked to cancer, heart disease, and even death.
The rationale for chlorine: The health risks from its by-products are far less intense than the health risks associated with the bacteria and viruses it destroys. That’s a fancy way of saying chlorine is a necessary evil. The issue is chlorine levels vary based on all kinds of factors: source, temperature, season, location, etc. And despite regulations, we continue to have problems...
Tap water in Wrangell, Alaska, was found to be contaminated with chemicals that occur when chlorine interacts with naturally-occurring organic compounds in water. Officials were forced to urge locals who were elderly, pregnant, or had health problems to avoid the tap water unless using a filter. Some cities, like Delray, Florida, reportedly failed to complete their daily chlorine tests. What are they hiding? Meanwhile, in New Zealand, one city has taken steps to move away from chlorine entirely.
A necessary evil? Perhaps. Though the regulations could probably use a second look. Harmless? Absolutely not.
Myth: Boiling water does the trick.
Fact: Boiling kills bacteria, but there’s plenty of other pollutants in tap water.
Nice try. Boiling can eliminate bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms. For example, things like E.coli can’t stand the heat. But it does not remove all chemical contaminants. There’s no protection against arsenic, lead, asbestos, mercury, and nitrates. Arsenic, lead, and nitrates are a few frightening examples of boiling gone wrong; they can actually increase in concentration in the heat. And boiling water can release, rather than remove, mercury. You get the gist. Boiling is no cure-all. And though they’re hard to find, advanced filtration systems, like what’s inside our pitchers, can actually remove bacteria, too.
Myth: Water softeners & water filters do the same thing.
Fact: Softeners remove hard minerals. Filters remove much, much more.
Hard water has high mineral content, typically from dissolved calcium and magnesium. To be clear: It’s unlikely these beneficial nutrients pose health risks. But they can cause issues around the house. Scale buildup, stained sinks and bathtubs, and frequent calls to the plumber make hard water more of an expensive and unsightly annoyance than a life-altering health risk. The solution? Water softeners. They remove hard minerals. But don’t mistake them for water filters; they aren’t targeting dangerous chemicals and snatching them up. For water safety and quality, you need a filter... not a softener.
Myth: Leading filter brands are your best bet.
Fact: The most popular filters can be the most ineffective.
We’ve linked some comparisons to other kinds of filters and brands below. Pick your poison and take a peek. Or hop right over to our test results for an objective (and unbiased) look at our performance:
Here’s the long and short of it: The most common water filters use typical carbon or charcoal filters. That gives them the right to post taglines like, “Cleaner, great-tasting water.” Is it cleaner? Yes. Even the most basic technology can remove some impurities. Does it taste better? Yup, it targets chlorine. Which means it can also smell better. But what about fluoride? Passes right through. How about arsenic? Yeah, right. Lead? Only if you choose the right one. Pesticides, bacteria and cysts, prescription drugs, BPAs, benzene and more aren’t even on the radar for some of these common filters. And the list goes on...
You may not recognize the names of these dangers, but birth defects, cancer, and hormonal issues are just a few of the symptoms that come with accepting “cleaner” instead of “safer.” Of course, we’re biased toward our Affinity Filtration Technology. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options out there that can transform your water from cleaner to safer. Do your research and pick what’s best for you and your family. Just understand this: Not all filters are created equal.
Myth: Get a filter & you’re good to go.
Fact: Maintain your filter & you’re good to go.
Slow down. Buying a filter and sliding it into a pitcher is a breeze. But if you don’t maintain that filter, you’re in for a rude awakening. Filters trap the stuff you shouldn’t be drinking. And over time, their effectiveness drops. Neglected and overused filters can actually leach hazards they snatched up right back into your water. Literally the opposite of your intentions. That’s why If you’re using a water filter, you need to change it regularly. Trust us: It’s worth it.
Thanks for playing along. Fact: We hope you learned something. Whether you found this enlightening or terrifying, at least you now know the truth about filtered water. Cheers!