The safety of drinking water is a hot topic these days. PFAS chemicals, most notably PFOA and PFOS, have been linked to cancer and other diseases in humans. These chemicals are often found in the tap water of many homes across the country because they do not break down like other contaminants.
If you’re wondering if your Brita filter can remove PFAS from your tap water, the answer is no. While activated carbon in a Brita pitcher can remove some of these contaminants from drinking water, it does not reduce their concentration to drinking water standards. Brita filters are not designed to treat PFAS and should NOT be used for this purpose.
This article provides real world testing data for Brita filters in use at homes with PFAS contaminated drinking water. This data demonstrate that Brita filters only remove some of the PFAS, but not all of it. We have data for other pitcher filters, too.
Continue reading to learn more about PFAS in drinking water and how well Brita and other pitcher filters perform.
Do Brita Filters Remove PFAS
Brita filters are not suitable for treating drinking water contaminated with PFAS. Brita designed their filters to remove things like chlorine, taste, lead, zinc, and other contaminants. However, their filters are not designed to remove PFAS.
For this reason, you can NOT use a Brita filter to treat PFAS.
Do Brita filters remove any PFAS?
Brita Filters use activated carbon as a filter, so they remove some of the PFAS in water. However, they do NOT consistently remove all of the PFAS to drinking water standards. Pitcher filters like Brita should not be used to treat PFAS for drinking purposes.
This statement is consistent with guidance offered by state health agencies, experts in the industry, and real world testing of Brita filters. We obtained data from a Duke University study that tested Brita pour-through filters being used at houses that had PFAS in their drinking water. Duke’s testing showed that Brita filters can reduce the concentration of PFAS in drinking water, but they do not remove all of the contaminant.
More importantly, they do not consistently reduce PFAS levels to below drinking water standards.
We present a summary of the Duke study, along with their data, later in this article.
Duke found that pitcher filters remove about 52% of PFAS from water. They also found that the treatment efficiency varies substantially based on factors such as the PFAS concentration, the age of the filter, and water hardness.
For these reasons, you should not use a Brita filter to remove PFAS from your water. There are other, better treatment methods that are effective and safe to use.
What does Brita say about PFAS
Brita filters not only cut chlorine taste and odor, but they reduce other contaminants as well. With their new Longlast+ Filter you can enjoy cleaner water with less risk of lead contamination than when using any pour-through systems.
Brita’s website says they remove the following contaminants from drinking water. As you can see, they don’t mention PFAS or any other fluorinated compounds at all.
- Chlorine (taste & odor)
- 1, 2, 4 – Tricholorobenzene
- Select pharmaceuticals, pesticides/herbicides, TTHMs and Atrazine
- Additional contaminants
These pour-through filters are referred to as point of use (POU) devices because they provide treatment where the water is consumed. Point of use filters are a great way to treat drinking water because they’re small and easy for the user to operate.
However, these systems do not provide a way to monitor how well they are performing and they must be properly maintained to remain effective.
Testing Your Drinking Water for PFAS
You can now test for 14 different PFAS compounds with the SimpleLab at-home kit. It’s easy to use and includes everything you need. They provide you with a comprehensive report that summarizes any PFAS compounds they detect in your water. They also explain what the results mean and whether you need to do anything to protect your family’s health.
I used the SimpleLab kit to test the tap water at my house. Unfortunately, I have low levels of PFAS in my drinking water. Read my article about this test kit and my experience with it.
PFAS Treatment Tests for Pitcher Filters
Duke University conducted a study of pitcher filters to see how well they remove PFAS from drinking water. Their study found that pour-through filters removed about 50% of the PFAS compounds.
This study tested 13 filter units to see how well they performed at treating PFAS. The average PFAS removal efficiency for pitcher filters was 52%.
The lowest treatment efficiency for PFAS was 8.3%. The best PFAS removal was 99%.
There was also a difference in PFAS removal based on chain length. Long-chain molecules were more efficiently removed than their short counterparts.
How well did each brand perform
Test results indicate that some brands did better than others. The researchers also found variability between a company’s various models.
Berkey and Aquasana had the best PFAS removal of all pitcher filters – 98.8% and 99%. The performance of Brita filters varied significantly 8.3% to 77.3%. In some tests, they removed most of the contaminants, but in others they removed very little. PUR filters performed the worst of all brands tested.
Table 1: Pitcher Filter PFAS Sampling Results
|Age of Filter|
|Brita||1||57.2 ppt||13.0 ppt||77.3%|
|PUR||1.5||14.6 ppt||9.4 ppt||35.6%|
|Berkey||12||16.1 ppt||0.2 ppt||98.8%|
|Berkey||6||14.1 ppt||2.0 ppt||85.8%|
|Berkey||24||68.7 ppt||30.7 ppt||55.3%|
|Zero Water||1||17.8 ppt||2.5 ppt||86.0%|
|Brita||1||56.9 ppt||50.0 ppt||12.1%|
|PUR||1||647.6 ppt||397 ppt||38.7%|
|Aquasana||3||48.3 ppt||0.5 ppt||99.0%|
|Brita||1||13.2 ppt||6.2 ppt||53.0%|
|Brita||6||23.0 ppt||21.1 ppt||8.3%|
As you can see, none of these filters removed all of the PFAS from the drinking water. Based on these results, would you want your family drinking water that was only purified with a Brita filter? I wouldn’t.
What level of PFAS is safe
The EPA has established a health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS at 70 parts per trillion (ppt), but there are no national drinking water standards. Some states have set lower maximum contaminant levels to protect public safety while others have put forth enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs).
California has the lowest drinking water standard – 5.1 ppt for PFOA. Michigan has the highest drinking water standard – 400,000 ppt for PFHxA.
Ideally, drinking water should have no PFAS in it. If that’s not possible for you, then the lowest possible concentration of PFAS is what you should aim for.
Pitcher Filters and PFAS
The majority of well-known water pitcher filters, such as Brita and Pur, are not built to remove or lower PFAS in your tap water.
This statement can seem confusing because these filters use activated carbon, and carbon is known to reduce PFAC levels in water. You may ask – If my Brita filter has carbon, shouldn’t it treat PFAS?
Although pitcher type filters like Brita contain carbon, the contact time in these filters is not long enough to remove PFAS to safe limits.
Contact time is the length of time that water is in contact with the carbon. For PFAS, longer contact times are required.
An under-sink or whole-house carbon filter has at least 15 minutes of contact time. A Brita filter has much less. This is why they can generally remove only some of the PFAS.
Pitcher filter brands and PFAS
There are a variety of activated carbon filters that can remove PFAS chemicals, including refrigerator and faucet models. However, there is a wide range of efficiency between brands and models.
Pitcher filters are commonly used to remove taste and odor from drinking water. Some remove contaminants like lead, VOCs, chlorine, mercury, and zinc.
Who makes pitcher filters? Here is a partial list of manufacturers:
Berkey claims that their filters remove 99.9% of PFAS and PFCs.
No other pitcher filter manufacturers claim to remove PFAS. We checked with Brita, Pure, Epic, and several others. They are all careful to avoid making claims that their filters remove PFAS from drinking water.
They don’t claim to treat PFAS because their products are only partially effective. This statement is backed up by several studies and reports. Continue reading for a review of these studies.
Pitcher filters must be maintained to remove PFAS
The downside to pitcher filters? They lose their effectiveness over time without regular maintenance. You have to replace the cartridge routinely because the activated carbon becomes spent.
The Duke study found a significant drop off in PFAS treatment depending on how much water a filter had treated – so it’s important to replace your filter cartridges regularly!
Another concern with pitchers – they only work for certain types/forms of contaminants. Pitcher filters (and carbon adsorption in general) aren’t effective at removing certain compounds like PFOA and smaller PFAS molecules. This is why an under-sink carbon filter or reverse osmosis system may be a better choice.
It’s best if these products come with certification from third-party certification organizations because not all brands perform equally. Some have this independent certification, but most don’t. Currently, the only independent certification for PFAS treatment comes from NSF International (NSF).
NSF developed a certification test protocol for water treatment devices that are designed to remove PFOA and PFOS. The organization certifies all materials used in these products. They also verify manufacturer’s claims about their effectiveness at reducing PFAS.
To be certified by NSF, a device must reduce PFOA and PFOS concentrations in water to 70 parts per trillion. This is the health advisory level set by the U.S. EPA.
You can find certified products that treat PFOA and PFOS at NSF’s listings page.
What Water Filters Remove PFAS
What’s the most effective way to remove forever chemicals from your tap water?
Experts agree that a reverse osmosis system installed under your kitchen sink is the best option available to consumers. Duke tested these systems and found they removed 96% or more of these toxins, with no difference among brands.
RO systems are pretty expensive. An under-sink unit might cost around $300. You also have to replace the membrane once a year. This might cost you $100.
They also waste a lot of water – only about 20% of the contaminated water ends being treated. The rest is dumped down the drain.
Another good option for your home is a carbon treatment system. These devices use activated carbon to adsorb PFAS in your drinking water. This process effectively traps the contaminant on the carbon particles to provide clean water.
Carbon systems must be properly maintained to provide continuous treatment. The activated carbon only lasts so long before it must be replaced with fresh media. If you don’t keep up with the maintenance, the treatment efficiency declines and you might be at risk.
Boiling water does not remove PFAS (read our article to find out why).
What is PFAS | Should I Be Concerned
PFAS chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl are man-made compounds that were developed for use in household goods and industrial applications. They were used to make water-repellent fabrics, nonstick cookware, food wrappers, and fire-resistant furniture.
These forever chemicals persist in the environment as well as our bodies due to their long lasting nature. This is why they end up in our drinking water.
PFAS chemicals cause all kinds of health problems. These include testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and preeclampsia.
What Do States Agencies Say About PFAS Filters
It can be helpful to see what state health agencies recommend for filtering drinking water to remove PFAS. Here is a list of states that have provided recommendations for water filters to remove PFAS, PFOA, and PFOS.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
These states have provided guidance and factsheet documents on the two types of filters for removing PFAS chemicals: activated carbon, which adsorbs contaminants; or reverse osmosis.
They provide information about the pros and cons of each treatment system so that you can make an informed decision about what would work best in your situation.
Do PUR Filters Remove PFAS
It’s important to know the difference between a water filter and purifier. Water filter systems, such as PUR or Brita, are perfectly fine for reducing bad tasting chlorine, but they were not designed to remove PFAS in your tap water.
Most pitcher filters are only partially effective at removing PFAS. A few may even make things worse if they aren’t properly maintained.
Duke conducted a study of pitcher filters. PUR filters removed an average of 37.2% of total PFAS.
PUR water filters are not suitable for filtering PFAS from drinking water. They can reduce the levels of PFAS, but not to below safe levels. For this reason, you should NOT use a PUR filter to treat water contaminated with PFAS.
Do Berkey Filters Remove PFAS
The Berkey filter is a perfectly fine option to reduce bad tasting chlorine and other contaminants like heavy metals. However, it was not designed specifically for the removal of PFAS.
A study conducted by Duke researchers found that Berkey filters are only partially effective at removing PFAS from tap water. This report also concluded that a poorly maintained filter quickly looses its ability to treat contaminated water.
Berkey filters should not be used to treat PFAS contaminated drinking water. They can remove some of the PFAS compounds, but not consistently to below drinking water standards.
Do Epic Filters Remove PFAS
Epic filters should not be used to treat drinking water contaminated with PFAS or other perfluorinated compounds. These filters use activated carbon, so they can remove some of the PFAS. But, they can’t remove all of it and they aren’t able to treat the water to safe levels.
Do not use Epic filters for PFAS treatment of drinking water.
Do LifeStraw Filters Remove PFAS
LifeStraw water filters are great if you want to reduce the amount of chlorine and contaminants like heavy metals in your tap. However, they’re not as effective for removing toxic perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). They weren’t designed for removing PFAS or even reducing their concentration in tap water, which makes them only partially effective at doing so.
Do not use LifeStraw water filters to remove PFAS from drinking water. They can only remove some of the PFAS, but not enough to meet drinking water standards.
Do ZeroWater Filters Remove PFAS
For those concerned about the taste and safety of their drinking water, a filter is an excellent option. Common types like ZeroWater will reduce bad-tasting chlorine and common contaminants such as heavy metals. ZeroWater has NSF certification for PFOA and PFOS removal in tap water.
ZeroWater filters were only partially effective at removing toxic perfluoroalkyl substances in the Duke study. This is the nature of pitcher filters – they remove some of the PFAS compounds, but aren’t as effective as RO.
Do Hskyhan Filters Remove PFAS
Even though water pitcher filters like Hskyhan are perfectly fine if you want to reduce bad-tasting chlorine and heavy metal contaminants, they weren’t designed for removing PFAS. While they might be able to partially treat contaminated water, they can’t reduce PFAS concentrations to safe levels for drinking.
Hskyan filters are not appropriate for treating drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
Brita filters are not suitable for removing PFAS from drinking water. They have been shown to remove some of the PFAS contaminants, but they don’t remove all of it.
Since the EPA’s recommended level for PFAS is 70 ppt, Brita is not an adequate defense against this chemical.
The best options for removing PFAS from drinking water are a reverse osmosis system installed under your kitchen sink, or a carbon treatment system used in conjunction with any other filtration device you might have already installed.
If you don’t have any of these, you can make do with the Brita filter. After all, some treatment is better than none.