Many Tap Water Filters Work Well
Consumer Reports Analysis Shows Wide Range of Products Can Improve Water Quality
April 9, 2007 -- What's in your tap water? Probably more than you want to
drink if you don't filter it first, according to a new report from Consumer
An analysis of municipal water-quality data revealed that 22 of the 25
largest U.S. cities had water quality violations over the course of a year.
Common violations included unacceptable levels of contaminants like lead,
chlorine, and the bacterium E. coli.
Selected samples from Boston had lead levels that were more than 45 times
the federal limit, according to the analysis.
A Consumer Reports comparison of a wide range of commercially
available water filters -- from carafes to large, installed units -- revealed
that most filters do a decent job of removing contaminants from tap water,
assuming they are designed for this purpose.
And you don't have to spend big bucks to ensure the purity of your tap
water, says ConsumerReports deputy editor Celia Kuperszmid
Lehrman, who wrote the report.
"The good news is there are lots of options for not a whole lot of
money," she tells WebMD.
Due in part to concerns about the safety of drinking tap water, the market
for bottled water has exploded over the last decade, growing by roughly 10% a
year since 2001, according to beverage industry figures.
Americans drank an average of 28 gallons of bottled water per person in 2006
-- more than any other commercial beverage, except carbonated soft drinks.
Although consumers have been led to believe that bottled water is safer than
tap water, this isn't necessarily the case, Lehrman says.
"These companies spend a lot of money to convince people that bottled
water is pure and natural," she says. "What most people don't realize
is that in many cases bottled water isn't as tightly regulated as the water
that comes from your tap."
Concerns about the environmental impact of all those bottles of water have
even made filtered tap water hip in some circles. A small but growing number of
upscale restaurants, like trend-setting Chez Panisse in Berkley, Calif., no
longer serve bottled water, opting instead to serve customers filtered tap
Testing Your Tap Water
So how can you tell which water filter is best for you? The first step is
identifying the quality of your prefiltered water, Lehrman says.
Community water systems are required to provide this information to their
customers every July, in the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). The report
includes details about where your water comes from along with detected levels
of dozens of regulated contaminants with the corresponding federal and state
Lehrman recommends going straight to the data tables of the report, which
must highlight levels of some, but not all, potential contaminants in drinking
The next step is testing the water that comes out of your own faucet. The
report recommends calling the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791)
or your local health authority to get the names of state-certified testing
labs. Or you can do it yourself for under $20 with a commercially available kit
like the Watersafe-All-In-One Drinking Water Test Kit, Lehrman says.