We all need water. We all want clean water. So if you want to be sure your family has the cleanest water, what type of water filtration system should you purchase? It depends on how much you want to spend, what contaminants you want to remove, and how much work you’re willing to commit. Here are some of the primary choices:
Carbon/Activated Carbon: There is a wide range of carbon filters. Some only remove chlorine and improve taste and odor. Some remove a wide range of contaminants, including asbestos, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Keep in mind, though, that activated carbon cannot effectively remove common “inorganic” pollutants such as arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate and perchlorate.
Ceramic: Ceramic filters have small holes throughout the material that block solid contaminants such as cysts and sediments. They do not remove any chemical contaminants.
Deionization: These kinds of filters remove mineral salts and other electrically charged molecules (ions) from water. They cannot remove non-ionic contaminants (including trihalomethanes and other common VOCs) or microorganisms.
Reverse Osmosis: This process pushes water through a membrane that blocks particles larger than water molecules. It can remove many contaminants not removed by activated carbon, including arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium and nitrates but doesn’t remove chlorine, trihalomethanes or VOCs. Many systems do include an activated carbon component. Reverse osmosis filters use 3-to-20 times more water than they produce, so they are only used for drinking and cooking water.
Water Softeners: These devices typically use an ion exchange process to lower levels of calcium and magnesium. They do not remove most other contaminants.
When shopping, if you’re looking to remove a particular contaminant, verify that it is certified for that contaminant by a reputable, independent agency.
Also, read the fine print. Some filters are labeled “NSF certified.” This is a reputable company, but its certifications are not all the same.
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