Water Filter Pitchers: PROS and CONS
Water filter pitchers have become a very popular consumer item in many households, and are easily bought in supermarkets, grocery stores, online and at any BIG BOX outlet. These devices are designed to conveniently sit in your refrigerator and typically feature a simple charcoal filter, which is presumed to remove chlorine residue and some metals from tap water.
Unfortunately, despite being very popular, water filter pitchers have their limitations at best, and are not very effective, at worst.
The Theory Behind Water Filter Pitcher Designs:
The engineering concept behind any typical water filter pitcher is quite simple. Water is poured into a top reservoir, which allows the water to “percolate” or pass through a replaceable charcoal filter cartridge and into a tank below. As marketed, the pitchers can then be stored in your fridge, to be chilled and provide fresh filtered, cool and contaminant free water… In theory.
In practical terms, when it comes to potential contaminants, this is not always the case. In actual fact, many, if not most filter pitchers only remove a select few metals like lead, mercury, copper and cadmium, and municipal water treatment chemical residues like chlorine, charcoal’s main attribute. In many cases, however, the pitchers don’t effectively remove traces of lead and often do not have the ability to remove pharmaceutical or hormonal residue (from birth control pills,) which are on the rise (folks dump their meds in the toilet or pass them through while urinating) parasites, viruses, bacteria or pesticides.
The True Filtering Efficiency of Water Filter Pitchers:
According to a University of Arizona study, conducted by the Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants, several brand name filter pitchers tested, were found to only remove between 49% and 80% of the contaminants claimed to be “effectively” removed. Research has, in fact, suggested that filter pitchers don’t actually do a very good job of removing potentially harmful contaminants at all, leaving behind between 20% and 51% of potentially harmful contaminants in your drinking water.
The university research also concluded that some water pitcher filters can, in point of fact, introduce bacteria into drinking water. Since the charcoal filter is seated directly in the water reservoir for protracted periods, it can allow a biofilm of microorganisms to flourish. This is actually used to create colonies of healthy microorganisms in aquariums. But what is healthy for your tropical fish tank is not necessarily all that desirable for drinking.
A research study conducted in Germany in the mid-nineties determined that a water pitcher can actually increase the bacterial count in drinking water compared to unfiltered tap water. As counterintuitive as this may sound, in some cases, the bacterial count was 10,000 times greater than the tap water samples. This lead to the team to recommend that if you have a compromised immune system you should boil your pitcher filtered drinking water.
Other Problems With Filter Pitchers:
If you are not all that concerned about bacteria or removing all of the potentially harmful contaminants in your drinking water, you may think of a pitcher as a cheap and convenient filtration alternative to a professional filtering system. The actual truth is that, while manufacturers may claim this, the math does not square up. Much like the razor blade or the printer cartridge business model, the replacement filters are generally not cheap and the costs ADD UP over time. Additionally many pitchers are not actually that convenient. While a pitcher can be stored in your refrigerator, it can take many minutes to filter the water, while it can be drank in less than five minutes by a family of four. This means that you could be waiting 15 minutes or more for another drink. Additionally, you can only use the pitcher for drinking water and possibly cooking, so the water used for washing your food is still coming straight from the faucet with all its contaminants.
Other Filtering Options:
Thankfully there are other and generally more efficient and much more effective options available for residential water users. There are a number of whole house systems which will remove not only chlorine residue and trace metals, but all pharmaceutical contaminants, microorganisms, organic and chemical compounds. This can ensure that you have healthy, safe drinking water whenever you need it.
About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state and Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices.