The sad news coming out of Flint, MI regarding lead contamination in the drinking water has caused people around the world to wonder whether their water is safe to drink.
The short answer is yes, but. The “but” is that while water coming out of the municipal water filtration plant must meet certain standards and is tested daily to ensure those standards are met, that does not protect you from what may happen after the water leaves the plant. Lead can leach from water pipes leading to your home or business, through the solder that connects the piping in your house or business, and even from your valves and fixtures.
The best way to minimize (you can’t completely eliminate) the risk is by installing a point-of-use (POU) water filtration system. There are several different types of point-of-use systems. Here are some that are designed to reduce the amount of lead in the water.
Pitcher. With these systems, you pour water into the pitcher. The pitcher uses a carbon filter to reduce contaminants. Sizes range from eight cups to a gallon. They are easily portable and are among the lower cost systems. But they can take several minutes to filter the water.
Faucet mount. As the name implies, these filters are mounted to an existing faucet, replacing the aerator. They treat the water as it passes through the faucet. They require no plumbing connections, are easy to install, inexpensive, and take up little space. However, their capacity is low, which limits the amount of water than can be filtered before the filter cartridge needs to be replaced. The filters generally need to be changed monthly, and replacing them will add to the overall cost.
Refrigerator/icemaker. Again as the name implies, these provide filtered water for icemakers and water dispensers in refrigerators. Some include an automatic shutoff valve for easy replacement. Many refrigerators now come with filters already installed.
Under sink. These filter the water before they get to the faucet, and require a tee connection into the cold water supply line. These can also be used to provide water to other appliances such as ice makers, coffee machines, and on-demand hot water units for tea or coffee. Cartridges for these systems tend to last longer.
Reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis filters are a specific type of filter that install under the sink. They use a membrane with pores tiny enough to catch lead and other inorganic chemicals. These are highly effective, but also can be pricey and definitely difficult to install. Additionally, they can waste as much as three gallons of water for every gallon that is treated.
Please Note: You MUST check the literature of the product you are selecting as many filters do NOT remove lead but only remove sediment or improve taste and odor.