How toxic is your drinking water? Discover how to find out plus what to do about it so you can have toxin-free, clean drinking water at home!
Clean Drinking Water at Home
Ever since I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease a few years ago I have spent countless amounts of time, energy, and money trying to eliminate the dangerous toxins in my home.
In case you aren’t aware there have been many studies done confirming the connection between toxic chemicals and autoimmune disease. I’ve listed a few below if you would like to learn more..
- Toxicology of Autoimmune Diseases
- Environmental Chemicals and Autoimmune Disease
- Possible Environmental Triggers Associated With Autoimmune Diseases
I’ve thrown out all my chemical-filled household cleaners and now I make my own all-natural DIY cleaners instead. I no longer use toxic candles and air freshener and instead use essential oils to make my home smell good.
And honestly, I could go on and on sharing all the different ways I have successfully ditched many of the toxins in my home but I still have a long way to go.
Because there are literally toxins lurking everywhere. That’s just the world we live in. And one thing that can be highly toxic that most people consume everyday is water.
Much of the earth’s water has been contaminated. So if you consume tap water or well water or even filtered water (more about that below) you are more than likely also consuming lead, nitrates, glysophate, trihalomethanes, and more!
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I am not a doctor and the statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products mentioned here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please do not ask me for medical advice. Click here to read my full disclaimer.
For years I had planned to do more research into clean drinking water at home and possibly upgrade our water filtration system but I kept procrastinating because there is so much information out there, much of it conflicting, and I just found it completely overwhelming.
So I just kept putting it off.
But after recently discovering how bad the drinking water is where I live I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. So I finally stopped procrastinating and I started doing my homework.
I want to share with you what I discovered and what I ended up purchasing to ensure my family and I are drinking the best water possible.
Hopefully, this information will help you and your family and also save you the time, stress, and overwhelm I experienced trying to find the best option for clean drinking water at home.
Clean, toxin-free drinking water is so important so if you’re not sure what is in your drinking water or whether it is safe to consume it is time to find out!
Contaminants in Drinking Water
There are over 300 chemicals and pollutants possibly contaminating your drinking water. Way too many to list them all. But you can learn about a few of them below.
Chromium is a metallic element that can be found naturally in nature. Chromium 3 is often found in fruits, vegetables, and many other foods. Chromium 6 is often produced by industrial processes and has been linked to cancer.
Remember the movie Erin Brokovich with Julia Roberts? The movie is based on the true story of Erin Brokovich and how she helped the people of Hinkley, Ca win a lawsuit against PG&E after it was discovered they had dumped chromium 6 tainted wastewater into ponds throughout the town.
Many of the residents of Hinkley were coming down with serious illnesses including cancer that they believed were caused by PG&E’s actions. The lawsuit was settled for $333 million.
The EPA has classified chromium 6 as a known carcinogen and unfortunately, it has infiltrated most of the tap water across the United States.
Fluoride is a chemical compound that is purposely added to the water supply because it is believed to strengthen enamel and prevent cavities.
Whether or not fluoride should be added to tap water is a highly debated issue. Many others believe fluoride is dangerous and the risks outweigh the possible benefits.
I would encourage you to do your own research in regards to whether or not you should remove fluoride from your drinking water.
Because I have an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid and there have been several studies done that show a link between fluoride and thyroid problems, I decided to look for a filtration system that removes fluoride.
Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, nickel, and mercury are usually present in trace amounts in drinking water. But even trace amounts can be very dangerous.
Heavy metals can cause severe health effects such as organ damage, nervous system damage, and cancer.
Nitrates are one of the most popular water contaminants, especially in rural areas. It can cause methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby” disease.
Nitrates in the water are usually caused by synthetic fertilizers and liquid waste discharged by septic systems.
The health effects of pesticides in the drinking water vary depending on the type of pesticide. But they can damage the nervous system, disrupt hormones and the endocrine system, and even cause cancer.
Trihalomethanes are a group of four chemicals – chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and bromoform. These chemicals are formed during water treatment with chlorine.
These chemicals are known to cause cancer. You can check out this study to learn more.
Pharmaceuticals in the Water Supply
Chemicals from prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines are making their way into our water supply.
Most experts believe there aren’t high enough levels of these drugs in the water to have an effect on the people consuming the water but it is believed the levels of pharmaceuticals in the water are increasing.
I don’t know about you but I would prefer it if my water didn’t have pharmaceuticals in it!
These chemicals have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, developmental toxicity, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced preeclampsia and hypertension, and immune dysfunction.
Unfortunately, PFA’s can be found in drinking water.
PFA’s are called forever chemicals because they do not break down in the environment and they can remain in your body for years.
You can click here to learn more about PFA’s.
How To Find Out If Your Drinking Water Is Safe
If your main source of drinking water is tap water and you are on city water you can contact your local water district and request a water quality report. I don’t really recommend this though because not only can these reports be difficult to analyze but also because the government’s standards for what they consider “safe” are pretty low.
Remember legal doesn’t always mean safe. Just because the government gives something a passing grade doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t harm your body in some way.
Also, legal limits for contaminants in drinking water haven’t been updated for nearly 20 years.
So with that being said, I recommend searching your zip code on the EWG tap water database.
The EWG standards for safe drinking water are very high and are based on the latest scientific evidence and legal standards.
After running my zipcode through their database I discovered our tap water had 25x the safe limit for nitrates, 15x the same limit for trihalomethanes, 201x the safe limit for chromium 6, and many more contaminants. Many of which by the way are linked to cancer.
If you are on well water or you would like to test your tap water yourself you can purchase an at-home drinking water test kit from Amazon. This test detects aluminum, arsenic, nitrates, chromium, and more.
A TDS meter is a device that detects the total dissolved solids in water. It’s an effective and affordable little tool but it will not tell you what types of dissolved solids are in the water, only how much.
And the problem with that is minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium are dissolved solids and the TDS meter does not differentiate between good dissolved solids and bad dissolved solids.
But with that being said, I do own a TDS meter and I find it very useful. Because even though it does not detect the types of dissolved solids in the water it can give you somewhat of an idea of how contaminated the water is.
For example, a high TDS reading can indicate the presence of harmful contaminants. Most of the time if your tap water has a high TDS reading it’s not because it is filled with healthy minerals it is usually quite the opposite.
But in some rare instances, it may in fact be detecting more good dissolved solids than bad but there is just no way of knowing unless you have your water tested.
But like I mentioned earlier, I do have one and I find it very useful and I’ll explain exactly how I use it a little later.
The Problem With Bottled Water
Many people just opt for bottled water rather than going through the hassle of trying to figure out whether or not their local tap water is safe to drink.
And in many ways, that was what our family did. We had been using a PUR water filter dispenser but ever since we moved into our new house my husband thought the water tasted weird. Even though it was being run through a filter.
So my kids and I continued to drink from the filtered water dispenser but my husband would drink bottled only. At the time I thought my husband was being kinda ridiculous but knowing what I know now about the quality of our tap water and the effectiveness of the filter we had been using, I wish I would have listened to him sooner.
But with that being said, bottled water is a terrible option for clean drinking water at home, and here’s why.
First off, it is terrible for the environment. It takes a massive amount of fossil fuel energy to produce plastic water bottles. And the majority of plastic water bottles used today do not get recycled.
But even if you recycle them (like we did) there is a lot of concern in regards to the sustainability of the recycling industry. In 2019, China who at the time purchased the bulk of the U.S. recycling material decided to start restricting imports on many types of recycling material.
So now many municipalities are faced with two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away. You can click here to learn more.
Bottled water is also expensive. Some bottled water companies have over a 3000% markup price on their bottled water. Bottled water companies are making billions in profits every year.
We were paying on average around $7 a week on bottled water just for my husband. That’s over $350 a year! That’s crazy!!!
Besides price and sustainability, there is also the issue of self-sufficiency. Your body can only survive 3 days without water. Do you really want to be dependent on the grocery store for the thing your body needs the most?
In early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic first began you couldn’t find bottled water at any grocery store near me. People were panic buying and stocking up on necessities and bottled water (and toilet paper) was one of the first things to go.
Even if you have a well-stocked emergency water supply, how much better off are you going to be in an emergency type of situation if you have a source of clean drinking water at home that you don’t have to depend on the grocery store for?
And lastly, there is the issue of water quality. Many people believe bottled water is cleaner and purer than tap or filtered water from home. And in some cases that is true.
But not in all cases. Some bottled water is just tap water in bottled form and contains numerous contaminants including arsenic. Click here to learn more.
Plus, there is the whole issue of chemicals in the plastic leaching into the water. Even though many plastic water containers no longer contain BPA there can still be microplastics present in the water. Click here to learn more.
So if bottled water isn’t an option what other options are there?
Types of Water Filters
There are several different types of water filters and a plethora of brands to choose from and this is where the overwhelming part comes in.
Which one is best? What should you choose? What is the best option for your family?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question for you. It depends on what type of contaminants are in your water and what works best for your family. Remember you can visit the EWG website to find out what is lurking in the water near you.
Whatever water filtration system you do decide to use make sure it is NSF certified. In order for a water filtration system to receive NSF certification, it must adhere to strict standards given by NSF-International which is a third-party entity that develops standards for clean water, food, and consumer products.
You can click here to learn more about NSF certification standards.
I will share the pros and cons of several different types of water filters and what I ultimately decided to use in our home.
Pitcher / Dispenser Water Filter
These types of water filters usually use granulated activated charcoal to filter out contaminants.
Although these types of water filters are very affordable the problem is they only eliminate some contaminants. They are not effective at removing contaminants such as chromium 6, fluoride, nitrates, and more.
Also, most of these types of dispensers are plastic which means the chemicals/material in the plastic can leach into the water over time.
Like I mentioned earlier, I use to own one like this and it was a pain to constantly have to refill. My family and I drink a lot of water and our dispenser seemed to be always sitting in the sink refilling.
And it took up a significant amount of space in our refrigerator which I didn’t like either.
- Removes some contaminants
- Leaves behind many dangerous contaminants
- You have to constantly refill it
- It takes up space in the refrigerator
- Made from plastic
Faucet Water Filter
Faucet water filters are another very affordable option. But of course, there are some downsides.
Most faucet water filters also use granulated activated charcoal to filter out contaminants. So although the issue of having to constantly refill and the unnecessary space being taken up in the fridge is eliminated, you are still left with some dangerous contaminants in the water.
- Removes some contaminants
- Leaves behind many dangerous contaminants
Gravity Filter System
Solid block carbon filters can remove VOCs, herbicides, and pesticides. And some high-quality solid block carbon filters can remove nitrates, fluoride, parasites, heavy metals, chromium 6, and more.
There are a few issues with these types of filters. The upfront cost can be rather pricey. They cost $200 or more and they usually only come with basic filters. Most of the time you will have to buy extra filters to filter out additional contaminants like fluoride.
I haven’t done the math but from my research, I do believe this type of water filter system would still be cheaper than bottled water in the long run.
This type of water filter system is quite large and is made to go on the countertop. So it does take up extra space and requires constant refilling.
In my search for the best water filtration system for my family, I almost bought the Berkey. But after doing some more digging I decided not to after learning about recent reports and articles alleging the ineffectiveness of the filters.
You can check them out below.
- The Big Berkey Water Filter System: Uncertified and Inconvenient
- Very Thorough & Disappointing Berkey Test Results
I know there are people who absolutely love their Berkey and think it’s the greatest. But for me not only was I worried about the counter space it would take up and having to constantly refill it, but the effectiveness of the filters was definitely a huge concern as well.
And unless I did my own independent testing which would be very expensive, there would be no way of knowing if the dangerous contaminants in the water were truly being filtered out.
So I decided that spending hundreds of dollars on a filtration system that I wasn’t 100% confident worked, probably wasn’t the wisest decision.
- Claims to remove a significant amount of contaminants
- Made of stainless steel
- You have to constantly refill it
- It takes up counter space
- Concerns regarding 3rd party testing
Reverse osmosis removes contaminants by forcing the water through a semipermeable membrane. This process removes up to 98% of the dissolved solids in the water.
Most reverse osmosis systems include a number of prefilters and post-filters to ensure all contaminants are removed.
Reverse osmosis systems remove fluoride, chromium 6, pesticides, herbicides, VOCs, arsenic, and basically all other contaminants.
But it does not remove bacteria and viruses. This isn’t an issue if you are on city water because water from water treatment plants is already microbiologically safe.
If you are on well water though you will want to make sure the reverse osmosis system you choose has a UV filter that destroys bacteria and viruses.
In my opinion and based on my research reverse osmosis is the best option for drinking clean water at home. But there are some downsides to a reverse osmosis water filtration system.
They can be kind of expensive. The price depends on which type you choose. But the price can range from $200 up to thousands of dollars.
They have countertop reverse osmosis water filter systems but if you choose to get an under-counter one instead (more about that below) you may need to hire someone to install it.
Reverse osmosis systems remove all dissolved solids including beneficial minerals. So you’ll need to add minerals back into your water.
Although there is some debate in regards to whether or not tap water is a good source of minerals anyway. Many experts believe we should be getting the bulk of our minerals from food, not water. You can read this article to learn more.
And lastly, reverse osmosis systems waste a lot of water. For every gallon of purified water the RO system produces, 3-4 gallons are wasted.
The amount of water wasted will depend on your water pressure as well as the health of the filters. You can click here to learn more about reverse osmosis waste water.
- Removes almost all contaminants
- Removes beneficial minerals
- Wastes water
Under Counter RO Water Filtration System vs Countertop
Like I mentioned earlier there are two types of RO water filtration systems – countertop and under counter.
The countertop RO systems, of course, take up space on the counter and need to be constantly refilled which can both be very inconvenient. And most are made with plastic which can be an issue as well.
Under counter RO systems don’t take up counter space and don’t need to be constantly refilled. But you may need someone to install it for you.
Also, the water in the under-counter RO systems can go through anywhere from 5-12 different filtration stages and the countertop systems usually only have 3-4 stages.
What I Chose for Clean Drinking Water at Home
Even though RO systems can be expensive and they do waste water, it is what I ultimately chose to use in my home.
I chose this system mainly because of its effectiveness in removing contaminants. For me, this was the most important factor when it came to choosing a water filtration system for my home.
With all the other water filter options there was just no real way of knowing whether the filters were doing what the companies claimed them to do unless I paid a lot of money to have our water tested.
With a reverse osmosis system, I could easily use a cheap TDS meter to test whether or not the dissolved solids were being removed (TDS meter results below).
I was concerned about the price but after doing the math I was pleased to discover we actually are saving money by using an RO system instead of buying bottled water (more about that below).
Another concern of mine was the amount of water wasted. But we decided we would do our best to conserve water in other ways to offset the amount of water wasted in our house (more about that below).
I was super close to purchasing an Aquatru countertop water filtration system but decided against it for a few different reasons.
Also, I really didn’t want a water filter that took up space on the counter and that I had to constantly refill.
iSpring 6-Stage Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System
I ended up purchasing the iSpring 6-stage under sink reverse osmosis drinking water filter system and I am super happy with my decision.
The water filtered through this system goes through 6 different stages.
It first goes through the 3 prefilters which include a PP sediment filter, carbon KDF (GAC) filter, and a carbon block (CTO) filter. These filters remove large contaminants and protect the RO membrane from chemicals like chlorine and chloramines.
Next, the water goes through the reverse osmosis (RO) filter that removes contaminants down to 0.0001 microns.
Then it goes through the GAC filter which provides final polishing before the filtered water is delivered to the faucet.
And lastly, it goes through an alkaline remineralization filter which restores alkaline balance.
Because most standard 5 stage RO systems remove beneficial minerals they produce slightly acidic water. But because of the alkaline remineralization filter, that is not the case with this reverse osmosis system.
If you are on well water you have the option to purchase their 7 stage system which includes a UV light filter to destroy pathogens.
Overall Cost of Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System
The iSpring 6-stage under-sink reverse osmosis drinking water filter system was around $200.
There are some more advanced under-sink filtration systems that have double the amount of filtration stages but most of these systems cost thousands of dollars. For us right now it just wasn’t in the budget.
Also, I just don’t believe the additional benefits of these more expensive systems outweigh the cost. At least that is how I feel right now. My opinion could change in the future.
With that being said even $200 might seem expensive to some people.
But for us, we are actually saving money by using this system. We were spending over $300 a year on bottled water and at least $50 dollars a year on filters for our PUR water dispenser.
The whole RO system was $200 dollars and replacement filters (a year supply) will cost around $60 a year. So this year the total cost will be around $260 which is still less than what we were spending before.
But next year our total cost will only be $60!
The 4 main filters need to be replaced every 6 months and the ph filter needs to be replaced once a year. A year’s supply which includes 2 of each main filter and one of the ph filters is about $60.
The reversis osmosis membrane only needs to be replaced every 2-3 years and costs around $26.
So the max amount we are ever going to spend in any given year on filters is $86. Still significantly cheaper than what we were paying for water before and the water is so much better!
Plus, my husband was able to install the system himself. So we saved more money by not having to pay someone to install it.
Conserving Water With a Reverse Osmosis System
One of the biggest downsides of the reverse osmosis water filtration system is the amount of water it wastes. Living in California where we are especially prone to droughts I was very concerned about wasting water.
So we made a few adjustments in our home to offset this water waste.
We upgraded our toilets to high-efficiency toilets. Our new toilets use less than one gallon per flush. Our old toilets used between 5-6 gallons per flush.
So even if we drink 2 gallons of water per day (which actually equals close to 8 total gallons if you include the wasted water) we are now saving around 40 gallons per day by switching to high-efficiency toilets.
But it gets even better.
You can save the water wasted by the RO water system. Now there isn’t a whole lot you can do with the wasted water, or I guess I should say, should do with it.
RO waste water is highly contaminated so you shouldn’t bathe with it or even water your plants with it. But you can flush your toilet with it or wash your car with it.
So that is what we do. Now we are wasting zero water. Problem solved!
Reverse Osmosis TDS results
So like I mentioned earlier, a TDS meter cannot tell you what exactly is in your water but it can be a useful tool especially if you opt for a reverse osmosis sysyem.
An effective RO system should have a reading as close to zero as possible on a TDS meter.
Our tap water has a TDS level of 286. The water filtered through our PUR dispenser has a reading of 165 (and that is with a fairly new filter). And water from our RO system has a TDS level of 26!!!
Keep in mind we have a remineralization filter so the extra minerals will increase the TDS levels. When I add my trace mineral drops to my water the TDS meter skyrockets into the thousands.
So I’m pretty confident that if we did not have the remineralization filter the TDS meter would be at zero.
Final Thoughts about Clean Drinking Water at Home
Overall, I’m really pleased with this water filtration system. The water tastes amazing. I know it is so much cleaner and purer than the water I was drinking before which I thought was safe.
It doesn’t take up any space on my counter or in my refrigerator and it doesn’t need to be constantly refilled.
We will be saving a lot of money in the long run with this system which I’m very happy about.
It feels good to know that my family and I don’t have to wonder whether or not we are consuming a bunch of chemicals in our drinking water.
So if you want clean drinking water at home I highly recommend the iSpring 6-stage under sink reverse osmosis drinking water filter system.
But it is ultimately up to you to make that decision for your family. Weigh the pros and cons above and choose what you think is best.
Let me know if you have any questions!