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Lifestyle

Defend Against Gnarly Chemicals with the Best Water Filters for PFAS

Cut harmful “forever chemicals” out at the source.
By Will Price
May 21, 2024

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The law of things with long, hard-to-say names is thus: it’s either really boring and not worth fretting over, or it’s a serious issue you should think about. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS, fall unfortunately into the latter category.

Sometimes called “forever chemicals,” PFAS are manmade chemical byproducts of various manufacturing processes. They don’t break down over time, so they accumulate in the environment and in your body. Depending on where you live, your biggest exposure point to PFAS may be your water—shower water, drinking water, sink water, and so on. The good news: there are powerful water-filtering products that block PFAS entry. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Are PFAS Bad?

Most researchers will say PFAS warrant more studies to fully understand their impact on the human body, but at this point, the science has linked exposure to PFAS to a wide array of health issues. Altered immune and thyroid function, liver disease, kidney disease, birth defects, and lipid and insulin dysregulation. Not to mention kidney, liver, and testicular cancer (1), as well as evidence suggesting it may lower testosterone levels in men (2). You can learn more about what the Environmental Protection Agency is doing to combat PFAS on its website.

Who Needs a PFAS Filter?

Not everyone needs or should consider a PFAS filter, as your exposure to chemicals is largely dependent on where you live (though some consumer products, like sparkling water or nonstick cookware, bring in PFAS from outside your local area). Most experts suggest getting your water tested for chemical content before getting any type of filter—from a simple pitcher filter to a full-home water filtration system. This process is usually done by water testing labs more local to you, which can be found by Google searching “water test for PFAS.” There are also water filter makers that tailor the product you buy to your zip code or township, which is done to ensure the filtration systems you buy are clearing out the stuff that’s actually in your water.

The Best Water Filters for PFAS

Big Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter

Best drinking water PFAS filter

Initially popular with preppers, outdoorsy folks, and health nerds, the Big Berkey water filter has come into its own recently as a (slightly) more mainstream source of clean drinking water. Despite appearances—it looks like something filled with unsweet tea at an outdoor wedding—it is, in fact, an extremely effective filter. The Berkey system was tested by a series of third-party labs that found it eliminated 99.9999 percent of waterborne pathogens and viruses and a whopping 99.9 percent of heavy metals. Its filters also last for something like 6,000 gallons of water which, if you were to drink a gallon a day in your household, would last for nearly 16-and-a-half years. One thing the Berkey system doesn’t have, though, is an NSF/ANSI certification, which is considered the gold standard for drinking water filtration. The company claims its own third-party testing is even more rigorous than that of the NSF/ANSI certification process, but that is difficult to prove. Despite this, our reviewer largely loved testing the Berkey system.

Hydroviv Under Sink Water Filter

Best under-sink PFAS filter

There are a number of under-sink water filters, but we like Hydroviv’s the most. For one, the company doesn’t send the same kind of filter to every house, which is critical for water filtration. The materials found in water flowing into homes in Los Angeles may be completely different than those coming out of the sink in Bozeman, Montana. Hydroviv uses your shipping address and city or township water data to better service your water, rather than painting with a broad brush.The company also prioritizes convenience—installation takes about 15 minutes, and requires no plumbing experience to do—as well as certifications that bring peace of mind, or at least ensure that the product you’re buying does something. The Hydroviv filter is National Sanitation Foundation certified for both aesthetic (chlorine, taste, odor issues) and health effects. If you regularly drink from the tap and worry your water may be PFAS-heavy, Hydroviv’s under-sink filter is a solid option.

Epic Nano Pitcher

Best water pitcher for PFAS

Truth be told, there are very few fridge pitchers that remove PFAS from water. PFAS are among the dizzying array of contaminants removed by Epic’s Nano pitcher filter. The 10-cup pitcher comes with a 150-gallon filter, replacements of which run for about $50. Depending on how much water you’re drinking that comes out to roughly $100 annually in filtration, which is a marginally better value compared to many of its competitor pitcher filters that are designed for 100 gallons.Pitcher filters have the advantage of low price and ease of use, but it should be noted that most of them—this Epic Nano pitcher included—can’t be used until the water in the pitcher is fully through the filter; in other words, you shouldn’t pour a glass of water when the filter is half-done.

Springwell C1 Whole House System

Best whole-house PFAS filter

If the water pumped into your home is especially gnarly, a whole-home system is your best bet. Short of lobbying your municipality to improve standards for filtration across your area, this is the most drastic action you can take to improve your personal water quality standards.Springwell is probably the most trusted name in the full-home system game, and its CF1 system is its most popular product. It’s certified to remove PFAS, PFOA, and PFOS as well as all the usual water filtration concerns—chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, VOCs, and so on.Because we’re talking about filtering every drop of water you come in contact with in your house, it is more of an investment than a pitcher or under-sink filter—this specific Springwell costs about $1,000 on the low end (if you have fewer bathrooms) and goes up to about $1,700 if you live in a large home. The price also fluctuates depending on additional filtration features like a reverse osmosis filter, or a UV light filter, though these are nice-to-haves more than necessary expenses. You’ll also need to consider installation, which the brand says can be done if you’re handy and understand your home’s plumbing, but should be performed by a licensed plumber if not.