Common Tap Water Contaminants & Choosing the Most Effective Water Filter

What's In Your Tap Water?

When switching to a non-toxic lifestyle, something that often gets overlooked is the quality of water that you’re drinking. Sure, you might have one of those $20 Brita filters, but to be honest those don’t filter out much. And it’s actually kind of crazy how many additives and contaminants there are in most tap water. So let’s take a look at what chemicals are commonly found in our drinking water and what to look for in a filter! 💦

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The Problem with Tap Water

The tricky thing about water is that there isn’t an ingredient label! The Environmental Working Group tested almost 49,000 water utilities across the United States and found a shocking 267 contaminants of concern. Of those detected:

  • 93 were linked to cancer
  • 78 were associated with brain and nervous system damage
  • 63 were of concern to development of children and fetuses
  • 38 were linked to fertility problems
  • 45 were connected to hormone disruption

If tap water came with a label, here are just a few common contaminants you might see on the list:

  • Aluminum
  • Ammonia
  • Arsenic
  • Chloramine
  • Chlorine
  • Disinfection byproducts
    • When water is treated, there are byproducts produced that are actually more harmful than what they are intended to treat! These include trihalomethanes (THMs), haloacetic acids (HAAs), chloroform, and more.
  • Fluoride
    • Fluoride has been added to our water supply since around 1945. The purpose has been to protect teeth from tooth decay. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually doing more harm than good. The problem is that we are being overexposed to it: it’s also added to most toothpaste and mouthwashes. However, fluoride actually occurs naturally in many foods like dried fruits, tea, cocoa powder, and walnuts. And there are other natural ways to prevent tooth decay, therefore the addition of fluoride is excessive.
    • A two-year Canadian study actually discovered that added fluoride barely helps at all in the prevention of cavities. The difference? Half a cavity.
    • The FDA actually requires all fluoride toothpaste in the U.S. to include a poison warning on the label. The overuse of fluoride can cause stomach ailments, altered thyroid function, acute toxicity, skin rashes, impairment in glucose metabolism, as well as permanent tooth discoloration called dental fluorosis. These can come in the form of tiny white streaks or even more severe dark-colored stains (I unfortunately had these as a child and they are still slightly there!)
    • Fluoride does occur naturally in water, but usually at low concentrations under 0.3 ppm (parts per million). After the addition of extra fluoride to our water supply, the level is about 1 ppm (roughly 1 milligram per liter). You can check your local water supplier here to see what the level in your area is.

[Podcast Episode 06] Is Fluoride Causing Your Acne? with Melissa Gallico

  • Hormone and endocrine disruptors
  • Lead
  • Nitrates/Nitrites (groundwater is becoming contaminated from pesticide and fertilizer usage and runoff!)
  • Mercury
  • Parasites
  • Perfluorinated chemicals (PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS, and Teflon)
  • Pharmaceuticals and drug residues
  • Synthetic organics (SOCs)
  • Uranium and other heavy metals
  • Volatile organics (VOCs)
  • See more contaminants on the Water Quality Association website

You can also type in your zip code on the Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database to see the water quality in your area.

Is Bottled Water Really Better?

Bottled water

The answer: NOPE. According to EWG:

Laboratory testing by EWG has found all sorts of nasty stuff in popular brands of bottled water – disinfection byproducts, industrial chemicals, prescription drugs and even bacteria. And unlike your local tap water utilities, which are required to test for contaminants each year and disclose the results to the public, the bottled water industry can hide the results of its testing.

Bottled water also costs more because you are essentially paying for the brand name and packaging, and not to mention the adverse health effects of plastic and the waste it creates in the environment. I advise avoiding bottled water for these reasons.

Not All Water Filters Are Created Equal

Now that you know what is likely to be found in tap water, let’s talk about water filters! It can be really confusing because there are so many options on the market, all at different price points. The truth is that you get what you pay for and need to determine what level of filtration you want. Some go too far and filter out EVERYTHING, including beneficial minerals that should remain. Some only target certain contaminants. Here are a few types of common filters:

  • 3-stage countertop filter (this is the type I use and suggest! keep reading for more details)
  • Reverse osmosis filter
  • Faucet/tap filter (like those plastic Brita filters)
  • Distillers
  • Ionizer
  • Gravity filter (this is the next best option in my opinion if you get one with a fluoride filter – the brand Berkey is a popular one)

To see a detailed comparison chart of the different filter types, click to enlarge:

Water Filter Comparison Chart

Pure Effect Ultra 3-Stage Water Filter

So which one is best? I personally use and recommend the Pure Effect Ultra 3-Stage water filter. I bought one a few years ago and am STILL using it because it’s so amazing. It’s low-maintenance and doesn’t take up counter space.

Pure Effect Ultra Water Filter

Here’s why I love it:

  • It filters out more contaminants than the other types of filters, without removing beneficial minerals (go here to see a full list of what it filters out)
  • It sits on your countertop and attaches directly to your faucet (they also make a unit that can go under your counter or a kit to convert it to under-counter)
  • It’s easy to set up and requires minimal maintenance (cartridges need to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on usage)
  • The water supply is instant – no need to wait for filtration
  • Water is not sitting in an open reservoir which poses bacteria risks
  • Works without electricity
  • Raises and balances pH to alkaline
  • Supports natural minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidant potential

Pure Effect also makes a shower filter which I recommend too, especially if you have dry, itchy skin or conditions like eczema.

Overall, I highly suggest looking into this as an option for your home! It’s definitely well worth the investment. Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve tried a 3-stage filter or if you have any questions!


View Pure Effect Ultra Water Filters


On-the-Go Travel Water Filter

If you’re looking for something quick to use while traveling, here is an option. (I still prefer the big at-home one for main use but this is good for quick purifying!)

Go Pure Water Filter Pod

GoPure Personal Water Filter Pod uses diatomaceous earth and lasts about six months. Just pop it in your water bottle.



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Written by: Becca

Becca is a blogger, wife, and dog mom living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having seen firsthand the benefits of switching to a natural lifestyle herself, she's passionate about helping women make the switch to clean beauty products, organic skincare, and a holistic way of life (without the stress of being perfect about it!).

2 comments on “Common Tap Water Contaminants & Choosing the Most Effective Water Filter”

  1. Hi Becca,

    Thank you for this wonderful review. I was looking at the Radiant Life water filter system until I came across your review of Pure Effect. I like that the price point is affordable for a high quality water filter. Is there a reason why you would choose this filter over the Radiant Life other than the price point? I’m strongly considering the Pure Effect water filter now.

    1. Hi Emily! I haven’t heard of Radiant Life but I just looked them up quickly. Looks like their $1,500 model is reverse osmosis and they supply drops that you have to add in, because reverse osmosis actually takes beneficial nutrients out of the water. That’s why I like the Pure Effect one, it leaves the beneficial nutrients in! Plus like you said the price point is really awesome. Hope that helps! I’ve had my filter for a few years and it’s still running strong.

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