Do you have a water filter on your refrigerator?
Refrigerator filters are not designed to treat PFAS. The typical refrigerator filter is designed to remove chlorine and taste from water, but they were not made to remove PFAS. These filters use activated carbon, which can remove PFAS, but they only remove some of the contaminant. You should not rely on refrigerator filters to treat drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
We recommend that consumers use a reverse osmosis system or activated carbon filtration system for treating their drinking water at home. These systems can remove most contaminants, including PFAS.
Table of Contents
What is PFAS
PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are a group of chemicals that have been used to make a wide range of consumer products and in various industries. They are resistant to high temperatures and repel water. This is why they are used to make non-stick frying pans, water-resistant clothing, and stain-proof fabrics.
Unfortunately, they are persistent in the environment, which means they don’t break down. They build up in people and animals over time. PFAS are very harmful to humans because they can damage your immune system, increase cholesterol levels, affect fetal development during pregnancy, interfere with puberty, and disrupt hormone function.
These chemicals have been linked to cancer of the kidneys, testicles, thyroid gland, and ovaries. They can also cause pregnancy-induced hypertension in pregnant women.
PFAS compounds are also found in drinking water. More than 200 million people, or about 70 percent of the US population, are exposed to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at concentrations of one part per trillion (ppt) or higher, according to the EPA.
Do Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS from Water
Most refrigerator water filters do not adequately treat PFAS to make it safe to drink. Testing done by Duke University found that these filters can remove some of the PFAS, but there is a wide range of treatment efficiencies. They also discovered that a poorly maintained filter can actually make the problem worse.
The amount of PFAS was four times higher in water filtered by a poorly maintained filter than with no treatment.
The typical refrigerator water filter uses activated carbon, which can remove PFAS from drinking water. However, these filters cannot treat most of the more than 2,000 PFAS compounds and do not reduce levels below EPA safety limits.
Why doesn’t a refrigerator filter remove PFAS
Refrigerator filters weren’t designed to treat water contaminated with PFAS. They are are too small and don’t have enough activated carbon in them. This is why they should not be used to treat your drinking water.
There are several reasons refrigerator filters aren’t suitable for treating PFAS.
- Not enough contact time. A properly designed carbon filter has at least 20 minutes of contact time. Contact time is simply a measure of how long the contaminated water is inside the filter. The longer it remains in contact with the carbon, the better the treatment efficiency. Refrigerator filters just aren’t big enough to provide the minimum contact time.
- Too little carbon. Another problem with these filters is they don’t have enough carbon in them. Activated carbon doesn’t last forever – it can only remove so much PFAS before it loses its ability to purify the water. Once the capacity of the carbon is spent, it no longer treats the water and has to be replaced.
- No way to monitor their performance. Refrigerator filters don’t have any built-in indicator to let you know they aren’t treating your water. This is one of the biggest challenges because every filter eventually stops working and has to be restored by replacing the carbon.
- Carbon is only effective for some PFAS compounds. Only the longer-chain PFAS are removed by the activated carbon filter, which isn’t effective in removing the shorter-chain PFAS.
Look for NSF P473 certified water filters
In response to concerns about PFAS in drinking water and at the request of regulatory agencies, NSF International developed a protocol: NSF P473: Drinking Water Treatment Units – PFOA and PFOS. This standard was designed to test and certify drinking water treatment units that are capable or reducing PFAS contaminants.
It includes rigorous testing procedures with outcome measurements such as reduction rates (amounts reduced per unit time).
Products that are NSF P473 certified have been tested and meet the highest standards for PFAS reduction. Having an independent third party certify your water filter will give you peace of mind knowing it’s doing what it says.
In addition to PFAS treatment, some refrigerator filters also remove lead. Learn more in our article on lead filters and refrigerator filters.
Testing Your Drinking Water for PFAS
If you’re concerned about PFAS in your drinking water, then the SimpleLab at-home kit is for you. This easy to use kit includes everything needed. They provide a comprehensive report that will help take control along with suggestions on addressing any concerns or questions about what the results mean.
Duke University PFAS Treatment Study
Researchers from Duke University conducted an extensive study of various PFAS treatment systems. They sampled drinking water at residences whose drinking water was contaminated with fluorinated compounds. As part of this research project they tested whole-house and under-sink filters that used reverse osmosis and activated carbon. They tested pitcher filters (like Brita and PUR) to see how well they performed. Their study also tested refrigerator filters to see how well they could remove PFAS.
We reviewed the Duke study to see how well various filters performed. The results are presented below.
How well did each brand perform at PFAS removal
The results were all over the place. No brand outperformed any other. Within each manufacturer’s filters, there was a lot of variability.
Overall, there was a wide range of treatment efficiency. The highest percent removal was 100% (1 GE and 1 Samsung filter), and one of the Whirlpool filters had a -29.5% efficiency. Yes – a negative removal!
One Samsung filter had 100% efficiency, but another Samsung device only removed 11.5% of the PFAS.
Two of GE’s four filters had nearly perfect removal, but another one only took out 30.3% of the contaminants.
Two vendors’ filters (Every Drop and Whirlpool) had negative removal efficiency – meaning there was more PFAS coming out of it than going in! These results highlight the importance of replacing carbon filters on a timely basis.
Table 1: Refrigerator Filter PFAS Sampling Results
|Age of Filter|
|Amana||12||50.8 ppt||9.0 ppt||82.3%|
|Bosch||N/A||46.1 ppt||3.2 ppt||93.1%|
|Clear Choice||3||53.1 ppt||47.9 ppt||9.8%|
|Frigidaire||60||2.2 ppt||0.3 ppt||86.4%|
|GE||6||62.1 ppt||43.3 ppt||30.3%|
|GE||N/A||47.1 ppt||0.2 ppt||99.6%|
|GE||N/A||32.8 ppt||25.7 ppt||21.6%|
|LG||4||14.1 ppt||0.2 ppt||98.6%|
|N/A||N/A||49.4 ppt||18.0 ppt||63.6%|
|PUR||0.25||16.6 ppt||2.3 ppt||86.1%|
|Samsung||6||54.6 ppt||48.3 ppt||11.5%|
|Whirlpool||4||13.9 pppt||3.7 ppt||73.4%|
|Whirlpool||6||48.9 ppt||52.1 ppt||-6.5%|
|Whirlpool||5||44.6 ppt||31.9 ppt||28.5%|
|Whirlpool||6||47.9 ppt||27.2 ppt||43.2%|
|Whirlpool||5||6.9 ppt||1.8 ppt||73.9%|
|Whirlpool||8||22.9 ppt||21.4 ppt||6.6%|
|Whirlpool||4||29.5 ppt||38.2 ppt||-29.5%|
|Whirlpool||N/A||57.2 ppt||1.7 ppt||97.0%|
Only two of the refrigerator filters removed 100% of the PFAS from the drinking water – GE and Whirlpool. Unfortunately, not all of the GE or Whirlpool filters performed as well. In fact, one of the Whirlpool filters had a negative removal efficiency!
The Duke study reveals that refrigerator filters are not reliable for PFAS treatment and should NOT be used as the only treatment for your drinking water. It would be fine to use a refrigerator filter, but you would want to have another method of treatment upstream to ensure your water is safe to drink.
Do Samsung Fridge Filters Remove PFAS
Samsung refrigerators are designed to be high-tech, and most of their units include a drinking water filters The “Waterdrop” filter has been tested and certified against ANSI/NSF Standards 42 & 53. According to the Samsung website, the carbon block removes over 99% of potential harmful contaminants so your family can enjoy clean filtered drinks from any brand or model Samsung fridge. Samsung does not claim that their filters remove PFAS.
The Duke study found PFAS removal efficiencies ranged from 11.5% to 100% for the two filters tested. This is a wide range, which makes it hard to say conclusively if thee Samsung filters are effective.
Our advice is to use a treatment device upstream of your refrigerator to remove PFAS. You can use the Samsung filter to improve the taste of your water and ice, but not to reduce PFAS concentrations.Check Amazon
Do Whirlpool Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS
Whirlpool refrigerators come with filtration units. The filters are branded as Every Drop and include activated carbon and a particle filter.
The Whirlpool website says the filters are certified by NSF to treat 28 contaminants including lead, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. They recommending replace the water Filter every 6 months for clean, fresh water. Whirlpool makes no claims about PFAS treatment.
The study data we reviewed indicates that the PFAS treatment efficiency of Whirlpool filters ranges widely. A 4-month old filter had a -29.5% removal rate while another filter removed 97%. Whirlpool filters should not be used for PFAS treatment of drinking water.Check Amazon
Do Frigidaire Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS
The Frigidaire refrigerator filter removed 86.4% of PFAS from tap water in the one sample we found. While this is a significant reduction, it is not adequate for treating drinking water.
We recommend using either a reverse osmosis or activated carbon filter upstream of a Frigidaire filter to ensure safe drinking water.Check Amazon
Do GE Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS
GE refrigerator filters removed varying amounts of PFAS from contaminated water. The treatment levels ranged from 30.3% to 100%. The highly variable results indicate that the GE filter can NOT be relied on to treat PFAS.
You should use a suitable filter device upstream of your GE refrigerator to provide safe drinking water for your family. This could be an activated carbon system or a reverse osmosis unit. Both work very well.Check Amazon
Do Amana Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS
Amana refrigerators use EveryDrop filters to treat water. According the the EveryDrop website, their filters are certified to reduce potentially harmful contaminants like lead, pharmaceuticals and pesticides. They do not make any claim that their filters reduce or treat PFAS.
The one test sample for an Amana refrigerator filter had a total PFAS reduction of 82.3%. This is impressive, especially since the inlet concentration was 50.8 ppt. Despite the good reduction, the treated water still had a total PFAS level of 9 ppt. Amana refrigerator filters are not rated for treating PFAS and should not be used to purify contaminated water.Check Amazon
Do Bosch Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS
The only Bosch refrigerator filter tested by Duke achieved a 93.1% PFAS reduction. This is very impressive. However, the treated water contained 3 ppt of fluorinated compounds. Bosch refrigerator filters should not be used to treat PFAS.Check Amazon
Do LG Refrigerator Filters Remove PFAS
LG indicates that you can enjoy better tasting drinking water by using their refrigerator water filters. Their filters are NSF tested and certified to reduce contaminants in drinking water. They do not mention PFAS in any health or treatment claims.
The Duke study found that the LG filter achieved a 98.6% efficiency, and the treated water only had 0.2 ppt of PFAS. This is the below the lowest recommended PFAS drinking water standard of 1 ppt.Check Amazon
Removing PFAS from my Drinking Water – What Can I Do?
Fortunately, there are several treatment technologies that can be used for PFAS removal. Many of these methods are easy to operate and relatively simple to install.
Reverse osmosis for removal of PFAS contamination
Reverse osmosis systems are typically the best choice to treat your home’s contaminated water from PFAS chemicals. Testing conducted by Consumer Reports demonstrated that these filters can reduce GenX and other PFAS by 94% or more. You can find whole-house and under-sink RO filters to treat your drinking water. Either style works very well.
Activated carbon for PFAS-free filtered water
Another treatment technology that works well for PFAS removal is activated carbon. Carbon filters can reduce PFAS by 95% or more. They also have the added benefit of removing other contaminants like chlorine, arsenic and fluoride.
North Carolina PFAS study
UNC recently conducted a comprehensive PFAS study of private wells in several communities in North Carolina. Their findings indicate that it is impossible to completely remove PFAS from water – especially at the low levels that the EPA set for drinking water.