Concerned about the presence of PFAS in your drinking water and wondering how to remove them at home? You’re not alone.
To remove PFAS from water at home, use a certified filtration system such as a reverse osmosis system, activated carbon filter, granular activated carbon filter, or ion exchange resin system. Ensure the chosen system is certified for PFAS removal by a reputable organization like NSF International, and maintain the system by regularly replacing filter cartridges or media as needed.
In this article, we’ll guide you through understanding PFAS, the methods available for removing PFAS from water at home, assessing the effectiveness of these solutions, maintaining your PFAS removal system, and staying informed to protect your home. By exploring these topics, you’ll gain valuable insights into ensuring the safety and quality of your drinking water.
Understanding PFAS: The Basics
PFAS are an emerging contaminant with significant potential health risks that we are only now beginning to understand.
What are PFAS and Their Sources?
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals that have been widely used in various consumer products and industrial applications. These chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” are highly resistant to breaking down in the environment and can accumulate in the human body over time. Some common sources of PFAS include nonstick cookware, food packaging, water-resistant clothing, and fire-fighting foams.
PFAS can contaminate water supplies, especially near military bases or manufacturing facilities, leading to increased levels of PFAS in drinking water. Learn more about PFAS and what it is in my article.
Why PFAS are Harmful to Your Health
PFAS chemicals, such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), have been linked to a variety of negative health effects. Exposure to high levels of PFAS can lead to low birth weight, thyroid disease, and even cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, but many experts believe this limit should be lower to protect human health.
Recent research conducted by the Environmental Working Group and North Carolina State University found that the majority of US water supplies tested contained PFAS levels above the safe limit. As a result, it’s essential to learn how to remove PFAS from water at home to minimize the risk of exposure and protect your family’s health.
Methods to Remove PFAS from Water at Home
There are several effective methods for removing PFAS from your drinking water. Some of the most common and efficient techniques include activated carbon filtration, reverse osmosis systems, anion exchange treatment, and nano-filtration.
Activated carbon filtration
Activated carbon filters are a popular and cost-effective option for reducing PFAS levels in your drinking water. These filters use highly porous activated carbon, often in the form of granular activated carbon (GAC) or carbon block filters, to adsorb PFAS and other contaminants. Key advantages of activated carbon filtration include:
- Relatively low cost
- Easy installation and maintenance
- Effective removal of a wide range of contaminants, including PFAS
However, it’s crucial to note that not all activated carbon filters are equally effective at removing PFAS. Look for filters that are certified to remove PFAS by a reputable organization, such as NSF International.
Read my article about using activated carbon to remove PFAS.
Reverse osmosis (RO) systems
Reverse osmosis systems force water through a semipermeable membrane with tiny pores that can effectively remove PFAS and other contaminants. These systems are installed at the point of use, typically under the kitchen sink, and provide a high level of filtration. Benefits of reverse osmosis systems include:
- Excellent removal of PFAS and other contaminants
- Improved taste and odor of treated water
However, RO systems can be more expensive to install and maintain compared to activated carbon filters. They also produce a significant amount of wastewater, which can be a concern in areas with water scarcity.
Anion exchange treatment
Anion exchange treatment systems use ion exchange resins to remove PFAS and other negatively charged contaminants from water. These systems can be effective at removing PFAS, especially when combined with other filtration methods. Advantages of anion exchange treatment include:
- High removal efficiency for PFAS and other contaminants
- Can be used in combination with other filtration methods for improved results
However, these systems can be more complex and costly to install and maintain compared to activated carbon filters or reverse osmosis systems.
Nano-filtration is a relatively new technology that uses membranes with slightly larger pores than reverse osmosis membranes, allowing for the removal of PFAS and other contaminants while producing less wastewater. This technology can be an effective option for PFAS removal, but it may not be as widely available as other methods.
Comparison of PFAS treatment methods
When selecting the best method to remove PFAS from your water at home, consider factors such as cost, ease of installation and maintenance, and overall effectiveness in removing PFAS and other contaminants.
The following table provides an overall comparison of each PFAS removal method.
|Method||PFAS Removal Efficiency||Cost||Ease of Installation and Maintenance|
|Activated Carbon||Moderate to High||Low||Easy|
|Reverse Osmosis Systems||High||High||Moderate|
|Anion Exchange||High||High||Moderate to Difficult|
|NanoFiltration||High||High||Moderate to Difficult|
By choosing the right filtration system, you can significantly reduce your family’s exposure to PFAS and ensure safer drinking water.
Assessing the effectiveness of PFAS removal solutions
To ensure the optimal protection of your family’s health, it’s crucial to assess the effectiveness of the PFAS removal solutions you implement in your home.
Factors to consider when choosing a PFAS removal method
When selecting a method to remove PFAS from your drinking water, consider the following factors:
- PFAS Removal Efficiency: Look for systems that are proven to effectively remove PFAS and other contaminants. Check for certifications from reputable organizations like NSF International.
- Cost: Consider the upfront costs of the filtration system, as well as ongoing maintenance and replacement costs.
- Ease of Installation and Maintenance: Some systems, like activated carbon filters, are relatively easy to install and maintain, while others, such as anion exchange systems, may require professional installation and more complex maintenance.
- Environmental Impact: Reverse osmosis systems, while highly effective, produce a significant amount of wastewater. If water scarcity is a concern in your area, consider alternative methods like activated carbon filters or nano-filtration.
How to test your water for PFAS
Regular testing of your drinking water is essential to ensure the effectiveness of your PFAS removal system. To test your water for PFAS:
- Contact your local water utility: Many water utilities provide free or low-cost water testing services. They may also provide information on PFAS levels in your local water supply.
- Use a certified laboratory: If your local water utility does not offer PFAS testing, you can send a water sample to a certified laboratory for analysis. Look for a lab accredited by the EPA or another reputable organization.
- Purchase a home testing kit: Some home water testing kits are available for testing PFAS levels, but their accuracy may vary. Ensure the kit you choose is certified for PFAS testing by a reputable organization.
Maintaining Your PFAS Removal System
Regular maintenance of your PFAS removal system is crucial to ensure its ongoing effectiveness and protect your family’s health.
Maintenance tips for different PFAS removal methods
- Activated Carbon Filters: Replace filter cartridges according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or when you notice a decrease in water flow or a change in taste or odor. Regularly check the filter housing for leaks or damage.
- Reverse Osmosis Systems: Replace pre-filters, post-filters, and the RO membrane according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or when you notice a decrease in water flow. Regularly check the system for leaks and clean or replace the storage tank as needed.
- Anion Exchange Systems: Monitor the system’s performance by regularly testing your water for PFAS. Regenerate or replace the ion exchange resin as recommended by the manufacturer or when you notice a decrease in water quality.
- NanoFiltration: Replace the nano-filtration membrane according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or when you notice a decrease in water flow. Regularly check the system for leaks and clean or replace the storage tank as needed.
Recommended maintenance schedules
|PFAS Removal Method||Maintenance Task||Recommended Frequency|
|Activated Carbon Filters||Replace filter cartridges||Every 3-6 months|
|Inspect filter housing||Every 3 months|
|Reverse Osmosis Systems||Replace pre-filters and post-filters||Every 6-12 months|
|Replace RO membrane||Every 2-3 years|
|Inspect system for leaks||Every 3 months|
|Clean or replace storage tank||Every 1-2 years|
|Anion Exchange Systems||Test water for PFAS||Every 3-6 months|
|Regenerate or replace ion exchange resin||As needed|
|NanoFiltration||Replace nano-filtration membrane||Every 2-3 years|
|Inspect system for leaks||Every 3 months|
|Clean or replace storage tank||Every 1-2 years|
Which Water Filters Are Best for PFOS and PFOA Removal?
PFOS and PFOA, two of the most studied and widespread PFAS, can pose significant health risks if present in drinking water. When it comes to removing these harmful chemicals, not all water filters are equally effective.
The following table lists my analysis of each PFAS treatment method and highlights when it may be the best method for you.
|Filter Type||Advantages||Disadvantages||Best Suited For|
|Reverse Osmosis Systems||High removal rate of PFOS and PFOA; effective against a wide range of contaminants||Generates wastewater; requires regular maintenance (filter and membrane replacement)||Homes with high levels of PFOS, PFOA, or other contaminants; users seeking comprehensive water filtration|
|Activated Carbon Filters||Effective at removing PFOS and PFOA; relatively low cost; easy to install and maintain||Limited effectiveness against some other contaminants; requires regular cartridge replacement||Homes with moderate levels of PFOS and PFOA; users seeking a budget-friendly option|
|Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) Filters||Larger surface area for adsorption; effective at removing PFOS and PFOA||May require more frequent maintenance; less effective against some other contaminants||Homes with moderate levels of PFOS and PFOA; users prioritizing a higher adsorption capacity|
|Ion Exchange Resins||Effective at removing PFOS and PFOA; can be combined with other filtration methods for comprehensive contaminant removal||Requires regular regeneration or replacement; may not remove other contaminants as effectively||Homes with high levels of PFOS and PFOA; users seeking a supplementary filtration method to pair with an existing system|
What Does It Mean if a Product is Certified by NSF International for PFAS Removal?
NSF International is an independent, accredited organization that develops public health standards and certification programs to protect food, water, and consumer products.
NSF/ANSI 53 and NSF/ANSI 58 standards are the main certification standards for PFAS reduction.
When a product is certified by NSF International for PFAS removal, it means that the product has been rigorously tested and verified to meet the specific standards set forth by NSF for effective removal of PFAS from water.
Importance of NSF Certification for PFAS removal
1. Product performance
NSF certification ensures that a product has been tested and proven to effectively reduce or remove PFAS from water according to the performance requirements established by NSF. This provides confidence in the product’s ability to protect against PFAS contamination.
To make a PFOA/PFOS reduction claim, a water filter must be able to reduce these chemicals to below the EPA healthy advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. Certified products must be retested periodically and manufacturing facilities must be inspected every year, which ensures products continue to meet all requirements.
2. Quality and safety
Products certified by NSF International are subjected to regular, unannounced manufacturing facility audits and periodic product retesting to ensure ongoing compliance with the established standards. This ensures that the product’s quality and safety are maintained throughout its lifecycle. NSF verifies that:
- The contaminant reduction claims for PFOA and PFOS shown on the label are true.
- The system does not add anything harmful to the water.
- The system does not leak.
NSF certification is a reliable indicator of a product’s performance and safety. When a product is certified by NSF International, it means that the product has been independently evaluated and has met the stringent criteria set forth by the organization. This provides peace of mind when choosing a product to protect your family’s health.
NSF-certified products are listed on the NSF International website, providing consumers with easy access to information about the product’s certification status, the specific standards it meets, and any additional product claims. The product labeling, advertising, and literature must not be misleading, ensuring that consumers have accurate information to make informed decisions.
Staying Informed and Protecting Your Home
Keeping your family safe from PFAS exposure requires staying informed about PFAS contamination risks and taking proactive measures to protect your home’s drinking water. In this section, we’ll discuss ways to stay informed about PFAS issues, additional steps you can take to reduce PFAS exposure, and the importance of advocating for clean water policies.
Keeping Up with PFAS News and Research
Stay informed about PFAS contamination risks and emerging research by:
- Following reputable organizations: The Environmental Working Group (EWG), the EPA, and other environmental and public health organizations regularly publish research and updates on PFAS contamination and related issues.
- Monitoring local news: Pay attention to news about PFAS contamination incidents, water quality reports, and policy changes in your area.
- Attending community meetings: Join local meetings and events to discuss water quality issues and stay informed about PFAS-related concerns in your community.
Additional Steps to Reduce PFAS Exposure
Besides installing and maintaining a PFAS removal system, you can take additional steps to reduce your family’s exposure to PFAS:
- Use alternatives to PFAS-containing products: Opt for PFAS-free alternatives when purchasing items like nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and stain repellents.
- Avoid PFAS in food packaging: Limit your use of takeout containers and microwave popcorn bags, which may contain PFAS. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables over canned goods, as some cans may have PFAS-containing linings.
- Check bottled water sources: If you rely on bottled water, research the water source and treatment methods to ensure it is free of PFAS.
Advocating for Clean Water Policies
Advocate for stronger policies and regulations to protect your community’s water supply from PFAS contamination:
- Contact your local representatives: Reach out to your local, state, and federal representatives to voice your concerns about PFAS contamination and the need for stricter regulations.
- Participate in public meetings: Attend public meetings held by your local water utility or government agencies to discuss PFAS issues and advocate for clean water policies.
- Support organizations working to address PFAS contamination: Donate to or volunteer with organizations like the EWG or other environmental and public health groups working to address PFAS contamination and protect clean water sources.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cheapest way to remove PFAS from water?
The cheapest way to remove PFAS from water is typically by using activated carbon filters. These filters are relatively low cost, easy to install, and require minimal maintenance compared to other filtration methods. However, it’s essential to regularly replace the filter cartridges to maintain their effectiveness.
Can you filter PFAS out of tap water?
Yes, PFAS can be filtered out of tap water using effective filtration systems like reverse osmosis systems, activated carbon filters, granular activated carbon filters, and ion exchange resins. It’s essential to choose a system that has been certified for PFAS removal by a reputable organization like NSF International.
What filter removes PFAS?
Several filters can remove PFAS, including reverse osmosis systems, activated carbon filters, granular activated carbon filters, and ion exchange resins. The best filter for your specific situation depends on factors like PFAS levels in your water, your budget, and other water quality concerns.
Do PUR filters remove PFAS?
While PUR filters primarily use activated carbon filtration, which can effectively remove PFAS, it’s important to check the specific product information and certifications to ensure that the PUR filter you choose has been tested and certified for PFAS removal. Read my article on how well PUR filters remove PFAS.
How can I reduce PFAS in my home?
To reduce PFAS in your home, you can:
- Install a certified PFAS removal system, such as a reverse osmosis system, activated carbon filter, granular activated carbon filter, or ion exchange resin system.
- Replace filter cartridges or media regularly to maintain the effectiveness of your PFAS removal system.
- Use alternatives to PFAS-containing products like nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and stain repellents.
- Limit your use of takeout containers and microwave popcorn bags, which may contain PFAS.
- Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables over canned goods, as some cans may have PFAS-containing linings.
- Stay informed about PFAS issues, monitor local news, and advocate for clean water policies.
PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals that can have harmful effects on human health and the environment. To remove PFAS from drinking water at home, various methods such as activated carbon filters, reverse osmosis systems, anion exchange systems, and nano-filtration can be employed. It is important to assess the effectiveness of these solutions and maintain the systems for optimal performance.
Staying informed about PFAS issues, taking extra steps to reduce exposure, and advocating for clean water policies are crucial in protecting families and communities from PFAS contamination.