What’s the best water filter for your health? The Ultimate Water Filter Guide 2019

The best water filter system for you based on where you live.
In July 2017, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published their database of pollutants found in American tap water. It revealed some pretty scary stuff about the contaminants found in tap water across the United States, with a very handy tool for looking up what’s in your city’s water supply. And while we’re super grateful for this trove of information, the EWG’s database makes it a bit hard to figure out what kind of filter works for our particular set of contaminants So, we dug in. In this comprehensive guide on how to choose the best water filters for your home and family, we break down what contaminants are in your tap water, what health risks they pose, and the best water filter for your area.
Here’s what you’ll find in our water filter guide:
  • How we made our recommendations
  • Different contaminants and their risks
  • How to choose a Filter
  • Types of water filters
    • Faucet Mount Filters for your Kitchen 
    • Filters for Fridge 
    • Pitchers Filters
    • Shower Water Purification Systems
  • Choosing the best water filter for you
  • Additional resources

How We Made Our Water Filter Recommendations 

We looked through the EWG’s water filter guide to find products that are certified to filter out contaminants found in five major cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. If you’re in any of these metropolitan areas, this guide will help you make an informed choice about what kitchen water filter system to choose (and if you’re not in one of these metropolitan areas, just look up your zip code in the EWG database to find out what contaminants are in your water, and then take a look at the water filter options laid out here to see which will filter out the relevant toxins).
To make our recommendations, we first looked at each city’s results for contaminants detected above health guidelines. Note that there was quite a bit of overlap between the five cities (which may tell us something about city water more generally).
 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. 
 Armed with this information, you should feel confident that you’re choosing the best water filter system for your health. Now let’s get into it.

Different Contaminants and Their Risks

The EWG report found a lot of different contaminants. Here are some of the major ones and why they could be dangerous to your health. 
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
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.
Found in: Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco
Chromium (hexavalent)
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.
Found in: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco
Arsenic
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.
Found in: Los Angeles
Finding the best water filter to remove contaminants from your tap water.
Finding the best water filter to remove contaminants from your tap water.
The three contaminants listed above are the biggies, but the list doesn’t stop there. Here’s the complete rundown on other contaminants the EWG found in the five major cities we focused on, and where they can be found:

Contaminants by City

Yikes, that’s a long list of contaminants. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about all of them. The first step in choosing the best water filter is to zero in on which contaminants are present in your area. Here’s a breakdown of what scary things may be in your water, based on where you live:
Boston
  • Bromodichloromethane
  • Chloroform
  • Dichloroacetic acid
  • Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
  • Radium-226 & Radium-228
Chicago
Los Angeles
  • Arsenic
  • Bromate
  • Chromium (hexavalent)
  • Radon 
  • Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) 
  • Uranium
New York
San Francisco

Types of Water Filters

The second step to choosing a water filter is to figure out what type of filter you want. To make this decision, you’ll want to think about things like the layout of your kitchen or bathroom, and the ways that you and your family drink and use water. Here are the most common types of water filters you’ll be able to choose from (you may also want to get more than one kind!):
Faucet Mount 
This type of water filter makes it easy to safely use tap water. It attaches directly to the faucet and does its filtration there.
An example of a faucet water filter.
Refrigerator Filter
If you have a water dispenser on your refrigerator, this is a great way to be able to continue to use that feature without having to buy something else.
Pitcher Filter
Think of this as an upgraded version of the Brita filters we all had back in college. Pitcher filters let you filter water from the tap, then keep the ready-to-drink water on your countertop, in the fridge, or wherever is most convenient for you.
An example of a pitcher water filter.
An example of a pitcher water filter.
Separate Tap Filter
One of the fancier filter options, this type allows you to install a completely separate faucet in your sink, with a robust purification system in place.
Shower Filters
While you’re not drinking water in your shower, you’re still inhaling it through steam and absorbing it through your largest organ — your skin — which means whatever’s in the water will make its way to your bloodstream. Shower filters remove chlorine, which is used as a disinfectant in water nearly everywhere. Chlorine has been linked to higher incidences of bladder, rectal, and breast cancers, and can interact with organic compounds in water to create trihalomethanes, which encourage free radical growth and damages cells. 

An example of a shower water filter.

Choosing the Best Water Filter for You

Below are our recommendations for what water filter you should purchase based on where you live. To choose these products, we used the info about and then sifted through the options on Amazon to pick the ones with a high volume of reviews and the highest percentage of 5-star ratings.
Best Water Filters for Boston
If you live in Boston or the Boston metro area, your primary concern is likely filtering for TTHMs. Some good water filter choices to do so are:
Faucet mount: PUR 3-Stage Advanced Faucet Water Filter, 7.7-Inch by 3.2-Inch, Chrome
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.
 
Refrigerator filter: Frigidaire ULTRAWF Refrigerator Water Filter
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.
Best Water Filters for Chicago
If you live in the Chicago area, your primary concerns will be TTHMs and chromium. For the TTHMs, you can choose either of the filters listed above for Boston. For the chromium, we recommend the below two filters:
Pitcher Filter: ZeroWater 8 Cup Stainless Steel Pitcher with Free TDS Meter (Total Dissolved Solids) – ZS-008
Why: We picked this option because it’s partly made with stainless steel, which means less potential chemicals from plastic or microplastics leeching into your water, and is easy to clean. Yup, don’t forget you need to wash your water pitchers!
 
Separate Tap Filter: EcoPure ECOP30 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System – Built in USA – NSF Certified – Bottled Water Quality
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.
Best Water Filters for San Francisco: 
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re relatively lucky, as most water systems that supply the Bay Area have two or fewer contaminants (in fact, one utility has ZERO! Congrats Presidio of San Francisco!). Still, most of the others contain TTHMs, which are definitely no bueno. Given that, check out our recommendations above for Boston, where TTHMs are also the primary concern.
Best Water Filters for New York
If you’re a New Yorker (or in the greater New York metropolitan area), you’re drinking the same contaminants as Chicagoans, so check out our recommendations above for Chicago.
Best Water Filters for Los Angeles
Unfortunately for you if you’re an Angeleno, all of the big three contaminants — TTHMs, chromium, and arsenic — can be found in your water. Use any of the four products recommended above for TTHMs and chromium (Chicago and Boston), and for arsenic we recommend:
Separate Tap Filter: APEC Top Tier Supreme Certified High Flow 90 GPD Ultra Safe Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System (ULTIMATE RO-90)
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 (hexavalent).
Shower Water Filters
Because all shower water purifications systems only filter out chlorine, your options are the same no matter where you live. Here are three choices that we’ve vetted and approved:
Culligan HSH-C135 Hand-Held Filtered Shower Head
Rainshow’r CQ-1000-NH Dechlorinating Shower Filter
GE GXSM01HWW Shower Filter System
Here’s the complete EWG list of shower filters.

Additional Resources

Above, we tried to distill a whole lot of information down into some clear, usable recommendations. But if you’re eager to learn more and dive into some more details of the contaminants in your area and your water filter options, check out the resources below.
(BTW — if you want recommendations for other health-boosting items to have in your home, check out the WellBe Non-Toxic Product Lists, where you’ll find 1,200+ vetted and researched non-toxic products, from food to sleep to beauty to home and more.)

Distilling It All Down: The WellBe Takeaway

All of the above might seem pretty scary — but the good news is that knowing this information allows you to take control. Using the recommendations above, you’re equipped to purchase the best water filter system to block the contaminants in your area and protect yourself and your family against any dangers in your water.
Arm your loved ones with the knowledge they need by sharing this article via the handy links below and at the top of the page! 
Do you live somewhere besides the five cities we researched and need help finding the right water filter for you?Tell us in the comments below, we’ll try to help!

APEC Top Tier Ultra Safe Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System

Faucet water filter

PUR Advanced Faucet Water Filter

Faucet water filter

Culligan Filtered Shower Head with Massage

shower water filter
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