Why You Should Filter Your Water and How to Choose a Water Filter
Have you ever asked yourself if you need to filter your drinking water? Or better yet, if you’ve bought a water filter before or drank the filtered water from your refrigerator, have you done so for health reasons? If you are as fortunate as I am, you’ve never really had to stop and ask yourself if you should filter the drinking water in your home. Sure, I’ve been out of the country and had to buy bottled water instead of drinking the tap water, but I’ve never really worried about the safety of my drinking water. That is until a few years ago when I randomly went down a rabbit hole on water quality in Chicago (where I live), and it turns out that I should have been a little more aware of what is in my drinking water.
You may be thinking that you live in a place that has never had a water crisis like Flint, MI. Or maybe you don’t really drink that much water (gasp!) or you only drink bottled water (also, gasp!). So why would it matter if you filtered your water if any of these are true for you?
Short and sweet:
1 - Legal limits of contaminants in tap water have not been updated in almost 20 years in the U.S. This means that tap water can pass the legal testing, but still not be safe, especially in the long term.
2 - You really should be drinking water because your body needs to be hydrated to function properly. Poor hydration can have long term effects on your health.
3 - Besides the damage of single-use plastic bottles on the environment, bottled water isn’t always as pristine as their labels would lead you to believe. Plus, studies have found that you are likely ingesting microplastics from that very bottle of water you are drinking.
If you want a little bit of a deeper dive and some tips on finding the right water filter for you (that won’t break the bank or require a home remodel), read on.
Why Drinking Water is Important for Your Health
I know we have all heard, at least a million times, about how important it is to drink water. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I need to add my two cents in about staying hydrated because I really do believe it’s one of the easiest things we can do for our health and well-being that so many of us “forget” to do. I’ll keep it quick and simple, I promise.
If the body does not get enough water to balance out water loss from such bodily functions as sweating, breathing, and urinating, the body goes into survival mode. The body focuses on keeping the essential cells hydrated while the “less important” cells are damaged, leading to your body performing less efficiently. This shows up as a variety of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, lack of focus, dizziness, and muscle weaknesses.
So if you’re looking for an efficiency hack, try drinking some water.
Why You Should Consider Filtering Your Water
Now that I’m off my hydration soapbox, let’s get into why you should consider filtering your water. For starters, while the tap water in most of the U.S. (and Canada and Europe) has been extensively filtered and treated, this doesn’t necessarily mean the water is free from contaminants or safe. In the U.S., the Safe Drinking Water Act has not been updated in 20 years, and independent organizations have found that there are over 160 unregulated contaminants in our tap water. These contaminants have been linked to serious health conditions such as cancer, nervous system problems, hormone disruption, fertility problems, and brain damage.
Additionally, those contaminants that are regulated have legal limits that are much higher than the health standards recommended by scientists and public health agencies. Some of these regulated contaminants are the very chemicals used to treat/”purify” the water. And we haven’t even touched on the water treatment facilities that are outdated and underfunded in some communities so who knows how safe that water really is (*cough* Flint, MI).
All of this to highlight the fact that “safe” drinking water is a relative term, and something worth investigating further when it comes to your city. I’ve found that the Environmental Working Group has put together great resources on understanding contaminants found in drinking water and a database for checking the health and safety of the tap water where you live. If it’s essential for our health to drink water, let’s make sure that we are truly drinking water that is safe for us.
Sidebar on bottled water: you may think you can just avoid having to worry about contaminants by drinking bottled water. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong! Studies have shown that 93% of bottled water have microplastics floating around in the water. What’s more, bottled water companies do not have to test their water or inform their customers where the water comes from. This means the bottled water could potentially have as many or more contaminants than your tap water. So do yourself and the environment a favor and opt for a water filter.
How to Choose the Right Water Filter for You
While I’d love to give you a list of the top five best water filters to select from, choosing the right water filter involves a few different factors that are going to be specific to you. You can definitely get lost in all there is out on water filters (trust me, I know from personal experience) so I’ve broken it down into five simple steps.
1. Set your budget - You can find filters ranging from $20 to thousands of dollars. And, yes, the cheapest filter options aren’t always the highest quality options, I have also found through my research that the most expensive filters aren’t the best either. I think it’s important to choose a filter you can comfortably afford that you will consistently use. I’m a firm believer that health and well-being is multi-faceted, and if you end up financially stressed from buying the most expensive filter, no amount of safe, filtered water is going to combat the effects of stress on the body. So set your budget before looking into filters so you don’t even look at those outside of your budget.
2. Find out what’s in your tap water - Not all tap water is created equal. The types and levels of contaminants in the water vary by location so it’s important to know what is in your drinking water. The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful, free Tap Water Database that highlights the contaminants in tap water based on zip code in the U.S. Knowing which contaminants are in your water at unsafe levels will help guide you as to the filter(s) that can reduce or remove them.
3. Decide what type of filter set-up is most conducive to your lifestyle - Do you want something simple that once it’s set-up, you only have to track when you change the filter like with a faucet-mounted filter or under-sink filter system? Or do you want something straightforward with no handy-man experience required like a water filter pitcher or countertop water filter system? Perhaps you realize that you have a water filter built into your refrigerator and just want to use that. Or you want to go big and have an entire home system. Before choosing the exact filter technology type (carbon, reverse osmosis, distillation, or ion exchange), I think it’s imperative to consider your lifestyle. If you will forget to fill up a water pitcher or don’t want to figure out how to install a faucet-mounted filter, then the filter can’t really do its job.
4. Choose your filter technology type - Do a little research into the different filter technologies - carbon, reverse osmosis, distillation, and ion exchange - to help you understand the pros and cons of each filter type. This will be important so you can choose a filter type that works best for your budget, your preferred set-up, and what’s in your tap water. Don’t feel that you need to go down the rabbit hole learning about these filter technologies; this guide by the Environmental Working Group does a great job of explaining the types in a simple, understandable way.
5. Review the third-party testing on the water filter - Before buying a water filter, find out if the company selling you the water filter has third-party testing that they can provide you. The better, most reliable companies will have that readily available and be willing to share that. Don’t just rely on claims of the water filters having certain certifications as it turns out that many of those certifications can be bought by the company rather than actually earned. You want to make sure the water filter is actually doing what it says it will.
It took me months to decide on the right water filter for me. There’s a lot of information on water quality and filtering your water if you let yourself get sucked in. To make the decision for myself I had to step back from all the research and get clear on the three important factors: my budget, the best set-up for my lifestyle, and what is in my tap water. When I focused on those three things, and only those, I was able to quickly choose my water filter. I have a Berkey Filter and absolutely love it. I only drink water at home from it and have never regretted the decision. I definitely recommend it, but make sure it meets your needs of those three important factors.
Want to dive deeper?
Check out our episode with Nicole Sciandra - Episode 56: (Living) Water as a Wellness Tool