Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a common class of chemicals widely used in various products, including clothing, furniture, and food packaging. According to a new study published in August, 2023 by the US Geological Survey, nearly half of the tap water in the US is contaminated with this “permanent chemical.” Therefore, finding an efficient water filter that can remove PFAS has become an urgent need for people.
What is PFAS?
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large class of chemicals with over 12,000 different types, used to manufacture fire-resistant polymer coatings and products that are heat-resistant, oil-resistant, stain-resistant, grease-resistant, and waterproof. Fluoropolymer coatings can be applied to various products, including clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cookware surfaces, and wire insulation. Many PFAS, including perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have attracted the attention of scientists and the public because they:
- Do not degrade in the environment;
- Can spread through soil and contaminate drinking water sources;
- Accumulate in fish and wildlife (bioaccumulation).
PFAS persist in the environment and can be found in rivers, lakes, and many terrestrial and aquatic animals. People come into contact with PFAS through drinking water or food containing PFAS. Using products containing PFAS can also lead to exposure, such as industrial workers involved in PFAS production and people living near these factories.
Impact of PFAS in the human body
The health effects of exposure to low environmental levels of PFAS are uncertain. Animal studies have shown that experimental animals given large amounts of PFAS may affect growth and development. In addition, these animal studies also indicate that PFAS may affect reproduction, thyroid function, the immune system, and damage the liver. Some epidemiological studies have been conducted, but more research is needed to assess the impact of PFAS exposure on human health.
In June 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a health alert stating that these chemicals are more harmful to human health than scientists originally thought, and they may be even more dangerous even at levels thousands of times lower than previously thought.
More research is still needed to assess the impact of PFAS exposure on human health, as people may be exposed to PFAS in different ways, and different developmental stages may have different effects. Over time, the types and uses of PFAS chemicals are constantly changing.
PFAS levels in the US population
Most Americans have been exposed to some PFAS. Since 1999, the CDC has detected at least 12 PFAS in blood serum. Blood serum is obtained from participants aged 12 and over participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The CDC found that the blood serum of almost all testers contained four PFAS (PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA). This indicates that the US population is generally exposed to these PFAS.
By measuring PFAS in serum, scientists can estimate the amount of PFAS in the human body. Although the detection of measurable amounts of PFAS in serum does not mean that these PFAS levels will cause adverse health effects, it can provide reference values for doctors and public health officials and help scientists plan and conduct research on exposure and health effects.
In a study published in August, 2023, scientists from U.S. Geological Survey found at least one PFAS chemical in 45% of US drinking water samples from 716 locations from 2016 to 2021. The pollution mainly comes from water sources near urban areas and areas where PFAS is produced, such as industries that use these chemicals in products or waste collection sites.
In the image above, the triangles are private well water and the circles are public water; blue indicates PFAS detected and gray means no PFAS detected. Research shows that the areas with the highest concentrations of PFAS in drinking water in the United States are the Great Plains region, the Great Lakes region, the East Coast, and south-central California.
Water filtration devices that can remove PFAS
If you are concerned about health, you can take measures to reduce potential exposure to PFAS. Two filters have been proven to remove PFAS from water sources: activated carbon filters or reverse osmosis membrane filters. All water treatment equipment needs regular maintenance to work properly, and untreated water treatment equipment will lose its effectiveness over time.
Other common water treatment systems, such as water softeners or iron filtration systems, are unlikely to remove PFAS. Boiling water also cannot remove PFAS. Although many households are equipped with whole-house soft water or iron filtration systems, sampling data shows that these systems cannot remove PFAS.
To reduce PFAS in drinking water, you can choose “point-of-use (installing a filter at a faucet or a certain location)” and “point-of-entry (whole house system filter)”. Point-to-point treatment is often more economical than whole-house systems.
Researchers published the results of point-to-point filter removal efficiency for PFAS in residential environments in the Environmental Science & Technology Letters in February 2020. The main results include:
- Reverse osmosis filters and two-stage filters reduced PFAS by 94% or more, including new types of PFAS substances such as GenX.
- Activated carbon filters removed an average of 73% of PFAS pollutants, but the results varied greatly. In some cases, the chemicals were completely removed, while in other cases they increased. Of the six systems tested, four systems actually increased PFSA and PFCA levels after filtration. Because these systems remove disinfectants used in urban water treatment, they also make household pipes susceptible to bacterial growth.
ZeroWater Filter Pitcher
ZeroWater is a company that specializes in water filtration products, founded in 2003, headquartered in Trevose, Pennsylvania, with a core technology of a proprietary 5-stage filtration system, which can remove more than 99.6% of total dissolved solids:
- First stage: Coarse filter screen, which removes suspended solids such as dust and rust.
- Second stage: Foam distributor, which removes additional suspended solids.
- Third stage: Multi-layer activated carbon and oxidation reduction alloy, which removes organic contaminants; pesticides, herbicides, mercury, chlorine, chloramine, and stops bacteria from growing.
- Fourth stage: Dual comprehensive ion exchange resin, which removes inorganic compounds, i.e., metals, non-metals, and radiological contaminants.
- Fifth stage: Ultra-fine screen and non-woven membrane layers, which remove fine particles.
ZeroWater’s Filter Pitcher and water dispenser have been tested by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). The results show that their filters have an overall removal efficiency of 94.9% for PFOA and PFOS. The maximum concentration of PFOA/PFOS in treated water was 70 ppt.
40 CUP READY-POUR™ GLASS 5-STAGE WATER FILTER DISPENSER
* All prices are as of the time of writing
10 CUP READY-POUR™ 5-STAGE WATER FILTER PITCHER
Travel Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter
Berkey Filters uses a combination of three different processes to filter water, including ion exchange and activated carbon filters, to reduce PFAS in drinking water. Berkey Filter cartridges are made up of six different types of media with tiny pores that make it difficult for contaminants to pass through. In addition to this, the cartridges utilize adsorption to keep more contaminants out. Ion exchange adsorbs heavy metals onto the filter paper, thus blocking more contaminants. Finally, the gravity flow feature of the filtration system slows the process down, making it harder for contaminants to pass through, yet quickly helping you get the filtered water you need.
Berkey Filters can remove or reduce up to 99.9% of PFAS in water, including PFOA and PFOS, as well as other types of PFAS, according to tests done by an EPA-accredited laboratory.
If you want to enjoy the convenience and health benefits of pure, filtered water while traveling, the Travel Berkey ®️ Water Filter is for you. The smallest model in the Berkey family, this water filter is designed with portability in mind, making it ideal for travel and emergencies, as well as for regular use at home.
The Travel Berkey ®️ water filter works 100% off-grid and requires no electricity or water pressure. The water filtration system comes with two black Berkey®️ cartridges and a filter starter kit, and the water filter has a capacity of approximately 1.5 gallons. The two cartridges provide up to 6,000 gallons of filtered water, which is enough water for a family of three to drink for eight years. Also available is the Big Berkey Gravity Water Supply Water Filter with a larger capacity of 2.25 gallons.
Epic Pure Water Pitcher
The Epic Pure Water Pitcher is an advanced water treatment technology that uses an activated carbon blocks, which has been independently tested and proven to effectively remove contaminants such as PFAS from drinking water. Due to its high porosity and large surface area, the activated carbon block is particularly effective in adsorbing pollutants. In fact, the pollutant removal efficiency of the activated carbon block is superior compared to granular activated carbon filters. Therefore, if you are looking for a water purifier to remove PFAS, the Epic Pure Water Pitcher is your best choice.
EWG.org has confirmed that the Epic Pure pitcher has an exceptional ability to remove up to 98% of PFAS from tap water, making it an ideal choice in today’s water purification field. The Epic Pure filter cartridge is replaceable and has been tested to the highest industry standards. This pitcher’s filter surpasses the NSF/ANSI standards 42, 53, 401, and P473 in terms of reducing pollutants. Each filter can purify 150 gallons of water, making the Epic Pure Water Pitcher an economical choice that not only saves money but also protects the earth from the pollution of disposable plastic water bottles.
Each pitcher comes with a filter cartridge, which has an average lifespan of about three to four months. The exact duration depends on your daily water usage and the quality of your municipal tap water. If your tap water is heavily polluted, the filter will work harder to keep the water clean, which might reduce the lifespan of the filter. The pitcher lid integrates an LED timer that counts down from 90 days, reminding you when it’s time to replace the filter.
The storage tank in the lower half of the pitcher can hold about half a gallon of unfiltered water, allowing you to gauge the lifespan of the filter based on the frequency of refilling, ensuring you don’t use the filter beyond its effective period.
Clearly Filtered is one of the most powerful water filter on the market, utilizing Clearly Filtered’s patented Affinity® filtration technology, which effectively removes more than 365 different contaminants from the water, exceeding even the standards set by NSF/ANSI.
The technology utilizes a unique dual-technology approach that combines two different filtration methods: Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and a proprietary blend of seven different filtration materials.
Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) is effective in removing certain organic compounds as well as improving taste and odor; GAC is a porous carbon with a large surface area that traps and adsorbs chemicals and impurities from water.
A proprietary blend of seven different filter materials make up Affinity® filter media, which works in combination to remove a wide range of contaminants. These materials were chosen for their ability to target specific types of contaminants, including heavy metals, fluoride, and even hard-to-remove chemicals such as PFAS.
By combining these technologies, Clearly Filtered’s Affinity® Filtration Technology effectively filters out contaminants at the molecular level, while retaining the beneficial minerals in the water.
The body of the Clearly Filtered 10-cup capacity water filter is made of medical-grade Tritan and is 100% BPA/BPS free. The average filter life of the cartridge is 100 gallons (average replacement every 4 months). The Clearly Filtered 10-Cup Capacity Water Filter Jug is currently out of stock on both the Clearly Filtered website and the Amazon flagship store.
The Clearly Filtered 10-Cup Capacity Water Purifier features a three-step filtration method using Affinity Filtration Technology:
- Stage 1: Woven Mesh Screen. Water first passes through a woven stainless steel mesh screen, which blocks larger contaminant particles from entering.
- Stage 2: Granular Coconut Carbon. Next, the water passes through a loose layer of granular coconut activated carbon filtration, which focuses on chlorine, bad tastes and odors.
- Stage 3: Composite Shell. Water then flows through the filter’s composite shell, which is made of more than seven proprietary filter materials. This dense layer of materials slows down the flow of water, allowing the cartridge to spend more time in contact with the water. The combination of proprietary technologies and extra contact time allows the filter to provide superior protection against all types of contaminants.
Water Pitcher with Affinity Filtration Technology
$90 at Clearly Filtered (OOS)
A less stressful and more recommended method of removing PFAS is to install an under-sink water filter. The Clearly Filtered Under-Sink Water Filter System is easy to install and does not require a plumber, tank, or the purchase of an additional faucet.
The Clearly Filtered Under Sink Water Filter System has the capacity to treat 232+ contaminants, which is better than most reverse osmosis (RO) systems. It is designed to be compatible with any sink and connects directly to the cold water line. The installation process is simple and straightforward and can be completed in less than 15 minutes. Unlike typical reverse osmosis systems, this system minimizes waste, is 75% more efficient and produces very little wastewater. The filters have a life expectancy of 2,000 gallons and most users only need to change the filters once a year.
Each system includes three replaceable filters that utilize advanced Affinity filtration technology. Each of the three filter cartridges does its job and purifies in three stages:
- Stage 1: Advanced Priming Filter. A fine coconut shell activated carbon pre-filter maximizes the reduction of sediment and various micron-sized particles in preparation for the second and third steps of filtration. Harmful substances extracted at this stage affect the color, odor, and taste of the water, so you can see, smell, and experience the difference after filtration.
- Stage 2: Heavy Metal + Organic Volatiles Filter. Designed to eliminate hidden metals, herbicides, pesticides, and more, this advanced filter specifically targets those hidden chemicals and contaminants that most filters can’t remove, including lead, radiation, chromium, and PFAS.
- Stage 3: Built-in Fluoride Filter. The breakthrough technology inside this filter specifically targets high levels of fluoride without relying on conventional reverse osmosis technology, which blindly filters out beneficial minerals and produces excessive wastewater.
3-Stage Under the Sink Water Filter System
. Kelly L. Smalling, et al. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in United States tapwater: Comparison of underserved private-well and public-supply exposures and associated health implications. Environment International, August 2023.
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