What is the best the way to filter PFAS from tap water?
Concerns about PFAS including PFOS and PFOA in tap water is growing due to the substances being found in Europe and the US. More than 30 communities across the US have water sources that are contaminated with dangerously high levels of PFAS chemicals. Recently several media outlets and organisations have also put the spotlight on PFAS issues in Europe (see below).
What are PFAS chemicals?
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are very stable manmade chemicals that have properties that allow them to repel both water and oil.
PFAS chemicals are used in a wide variety of consumer products, including carpets, clothing, non-stick pans, paints, polishes, waxes, cleaning products, and food packaging. Firefighters and the military use them in fire-suppressing foam.
Why are PFAS dangerous?
Although more research is needed, some studies have shown that long chain PFAS like PFOA and PFOS may:
- cause developmental effects in infants
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- increase a woman’s blood pressure during pregnancy
- lower infant birth weights
- interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- increase cholesterol levels
- affect the immune system
- increase the risk of cancer
One reason that long chain PFAS substances could potentially cause so much damage is that they are stuck on our bodies for years.
EPAs recommended limit is 70 nanograms per liter but in some states such as New Jersey it’s 13 nanograms/liter. However there is no legal limit on a national basis. EUs recommended guideline is 100 nanograms/l while WHO states 4 micrograms/l for PFOA and 400 nanograms/l for PFOS.
Confusing? Yes, the science community is divided about what should be considered a safe limit. One of the challenges with legal limits is that it could double the the cost of drinking water in some places to reach the lower limits.
Where has PFAS been found in Europe?
Le Monde has put together a map of all PFAS contaminated sites in Europe. It shows how serious the issue as some local areas are so badly contaminated that people cannot even eat locally grown vegetables. Read more by the Guardian including the PFAS Europe map in English.
One of the worst incidents reported has been in Italy where hundreds of thousands of people drank PFAS contaminated water for a long period of time. It's suspected to have caused reduction in fertility.
How does PFAS substances end up in our tap water?
For water supplies with high levels of PFAS it’s usually due to a manufacturing plant, disposal or site using PFAS but it could also be a fire station or military reserve. Even if they stopped using the PFAS substances years ago they may remain in the tap water for tens of years.
One of the most recent examples of this is the Veneto region in Italy where it was found that hundreds of thousands of people had been exposed to high levels of PFAS from old factories.
In reality almost all water has some level of PFAS today but not at a level considered harmful for humans.
What about bottled water?
Bottled water may also contain PFAS, since it’s much less regulated than tap water and isn’t required to be tested for PFAS.
How do I know if there’s PFAS in my tap water?
This is a bit tricky as most standard water quality tests don’t include PFAS substances. This is why it took so long to detect it in places such as Veneto, Italy and Horsam Pennsylvania.
What is PFAS and how can I filter PFAS from the tap water?
Thankfully filtering PFAS is easy with the right kind of filter.
Activated carbon filtration is the most studied treatment to filter PFOS, PFOA and other PFAS. According to EPA “Activated Carbon can be 100 percent effective for a period of time, depending on the type of carbon used, the depth of the bed of carbon, flow rate of the water, the specific PFAS you need to remove, temperature, and the degree and type of organic matter as well as other contaminants, or constituents, in the water.” In particular PFOS and PFOA which are the most commonly found PFAS.
An affordable high quality faucet water filter using activated carbon such as EcoPro or EcoPro Compact by TAPP Water will reduce PFAS by 95% or more. The best part is that it will cost you as little as €60/$60 per year.
It’s also possible to filter PFAS using reverse osmosis and ion exchange filters.
- PFAS in drinking water poses a serious concern in places where the local water supply has been contaminated
- We know there are health risks with PFAS but not how great they are so better to be safe than sorry if there is a risk of PFAS where you live
- Bottled water is not necessarily safe from PFAS
- If you’re concerned about PFAS in your tap water then an affordable activated carbon faucet filter such as EcoPro or Flo Faucet Filter (US) will filter PFAS to keep you and your family safe
EPA information and guidelines on PFAS:
WHO report on PFAS in tap water in Italy:
PFAS causing low birth rates:
PFAS causes liver damage:
PFAS in US tap water:
PFAS limits vary by state: