In July 2017, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published their database of pollutants found in American tap water. By entering your zip code, you can research what contaminants have been found in public water systems. So now what? We looked through the EWG’s water filter guide to find some products that are certified to filter out contaminants found in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.
First, we looked at each city’s results for contaminants detected above health guidelines. There was quite a bit of overlap between the four cities.
Then, we cross-referenced the EWG water filter guide to see which NSF International- or Water Quality Association-certified filters were certified for the contaminants. We found lists for three contaminants— chromium (hexavalent), arsenic, and total trihalomethanes (TTHMs). According to the EWG guide, if we didn’t find the contaminant in their filter database, it’s likely there isn’t a certified product that filters it, or else it’s not sold on Amazon. Not all of the listings had options for multiple types of filters, which is why there’s only one pitcher in our picks.
We sifted through the options on Amazon and picked the ones with a high volume of reviews and the highest percentage of 5-star reviews.
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs): detected in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City
These carcinogens form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. According to EWG, there may be a link between disinfection byproducts and an increased risk of problems during pregnancy, including spontaneous miscarriage, cardiovascular defects, neural tube defects, and low birth weight.
Why: There were a number of options from PUR that were equally well-reviewed, but this had a lower price point. It installs directly on your faucet and can be used vertically or horizontally, which is especially useful if you have a smaller sink. It filters multiple contaminants.
Why: With the big caveat that you have to have a Frigidaire, and one that’s a French door model, this product was well reviewed and also filters other contaminants.
There aren’t any pitchers that filter TTHMs.
Chromium (hexavalent): detected in Chicago, Los Angeles, and NYC
This carcinogen (made famous in “Erin Brokovich”) may come from industrial pollutants or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater. It’s been found in more than three-fourths of American water systems that supply more than two-thirds of the country.
Why: We picked this option because it’s partly made with stainless steel, which won’t leach chemicals like plastic may and is easy to clean. Yup, don’t forget to wash your water pitchers!
Why: If you’re willing and able to do the installation— which requires a separate hole on your countertop for the tap —this reverse osmosis system uses three stages to filter a number of different contaminants, including arsenic. You may be able to install it yourself, though some reviewers hired plumbers to help.
Arsenic: detected in Los Angeles
This naturally occurring mineral causes bladder, lung, and skin cancer, and can damage skin and lungs. It gets into drinking water from natural, industrial, and agricultural sources, and occurs at the highest levels in the Western states.
Why: Like the EcoPure filter above, this requires an additional hole on your countertop and can be installed without professional help. Its reverse osmosis system filters multiple contaminants, including chromium (hexavelent).
Another water filter option to consider is a shower filter. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant for drinking water, but research has linked it to higher incidences of bladder, rectal, and breast cancers. When it’s in water, chlorine interacts with organic compounds to create trihalomethanes (THMs, aka TTHMs as referenced above). When ingested, THMs encourage free radical growth, which can damage cells. While you’re not drinking water in your shower, you are inhaling it through steam. And don’t forget that your skin is your largest organ, so you’re absorbing whatever is in the water through your skin, which then goes into your bloodstream (think nicotine or birth control patches). These shower filters claim to remove chlorine, but note that they don’t claim to remove any other contaminants.
For reference, here’s the list of contaminants found in tap water in the four cities we focused on: