MAINE, USA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering new rules restricting the amount of industrial chemicals known as PFAS in drinking water, but binding regulations are still several years away.
However, consumers do have some options for their tap water that are readily available.
A recent study tested the effectiveness of removing the toxic chemicals in nearly a dozen water pitcher filters.
"I wasn't sure what we were going to find," Sydney Evans, a senior science analyst with the Environmental Working Group, said.
The nonprofit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment recently tested 10 household name brand water pitchers on their effectiveness in removing PFAS from tap water.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are also called "forever chemicals" because they do not easily break down in the environment or the body. Studies have linked the chemicals with increased risk of various cancers, among other health concerns. Researchers tested each pitcher's ability to filter out 25 different PFAS chemicals from actual tap water.
"These were not laboratory-spiked water samples. This was a real home tap with PFAS and all other things," Evans explained.
The report states that four pitchers removed 98 to 100 percent of the PFAS compounds: Travel Berkey, Zero Water, Clearly Filtered, and the Epic Water Filter. Evans said other brands had a reduction of the chemicals ranging from 22 to 79 percent. Evans added the four pitchers have a higher price point than other brands in the report and may be out of reach for some consumers.
"Maybe many people already have Pure, Britas, or Amazon Basics; we wanted people to have that information. They do work to some extent, and less PFAS is better," Evans said.
Christina Heiniger is the spokesperson for PFAS Free Trenton, and the group was formed after high levels of toxic compounds were found at Trenton Elementary School in 2019. The water was remediated. Thanks to federal funding, dozens of residents, including Heiniger, had their drinking water tested. The levels came back above the EPA's recommended safe limits for drinking water. Initially, she looked into getting a water pitcher similar to the ones listed in EWG's report.
"You have to dispose of those filters, and you are going to throw them in the trash; you are now throwing a hazardous chemical that will end up in the landfill," Heiniger said.
Heiniger opted instead for a reverse osmosis system that can be hooked up to your water supply, with filters lasting far longer than a pitcher-style device. Evans, meanwhile, points out that any filter is less likely to work as it nears the end of the manufacturer's recommended lifespan and should not be used beyond that date.