Yesterday, I was standing in the communal bathroom, waiting for my Brita Pitcher to fill up. Since it takes a decent 5 minutes to filter all of the water through, it gave me time to think. Was I wasting my precious time as a busy college student, or do Brita pitchers actually work? And if so, how? I mean, sure, we all know that the filters take out some chemicals out of tap water, but in the end, is it really that different from regular tap water?
To answer my questions, I did some research…and this is what I found:
According to Brita’s website, the filters supposedly remove thirteen chemicals found in tap water.
Brita’s website also includes a list of negative effects that can result in drinking unfiltered water. Some of the side effects include nausea and liver, pancreatic, and kidney damage (A list of these can be found here )
How it works:
The filters work by extracting the harsh chemicals found in the water. As the molecules pass through the filter, they cling to the surface area due to the help of the carbon that is found within the filters. This is also why we are told to change the filter ever two months. Once the surface area of the inside of the filter is full, the process will not work anymore (Brita.com).
An article from The Daily Beast sates that general water filters do less than we think. In fact, according to this article, after a taste test, most people can’t tell the difference between filtered water and tap water. In general, water filters are only qualified to extract a small percentage of chemicals. Common chemicals found in tap water, such as lead or pesticide remains, are not typically removed from filters.
According to Raymond Letterman, a civil engineering professor at Syracuse University, some filters can even add extra bacteria into our water. He mentions that because of biofilm, which is some of the residue left from the filters, there is always a chance for a layer of bacteria to be on the surface of our filtered water (Schulson).
Furthermore, a study conducted in Germany found that filtered water more often than not has more bacteria than unfiltered tap water. This study tested the Brita filter in a household setting and found that the percentage of bacteria increased in 24 out of 34 filters. Furthermore, in a lab setting, after one week of use at the same temperature, 4 out of 6 filters tested had more bacteria. Even more shockingly, groups of bacteria present in filtered water were 10,000 times higher than regular tap water. In short, because of biofilm, filtered water produced more bacteria compared to unfiltered water.
So, since filters clearly don’t remove all of the toxins found in our water, what other safe solutions are there?
Although boiling water has been around since, well, the beginning of time, it doesn’t necessarily kill all of the toxins found in water. According to this article, boiling water still may not remove 100% all of the chemicals found in regular tap water.
In conclusion, do water filters really work? Is drinking tap water just as safe as filtered water? Well, after making correlations from observing the data we have collected thus far, it’s safe to say that filters (usually) can take out some common molecules found in your water pipes. However, studies still found that sometimes filters can cause more harm than good, by creating even more bacteria over time. And, although boiling water may work, there is never a 100% guarantee that all toxins will filter out of your water. So, you will never truly take out all the chemicals found in tap water (unless, of course, you purchase a thousand dollar filtering system). And that’s okay, because usually, the water that comes out of our kitchen sinks isn’t too harmful anyway. Most people simply opt to use filters for personal taste.