The Best Water Filters for Filtering Fluoride
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Since writing The Hidden Cause of Acne, the most frequent question people ask me is what water filter they should buy to remove fluoride.
There are four primary types of water filters known to remove fluoride: activated alumina, distillation, bone char, and reverse osmosis. Brita filters and many other common household water filters do not remove fluoride.
The Best Water Filters for Filtering Fluoride from Drinking Water
After hearing from hundreds of fluoride-sensitive individuals in my private Facebook group, the most effective option for removing fluoride from drinking water is a counter-top steam distiller. Distillation is so effective at removing fluoride that I often recommend a 30-day distilled water challenge for people who are trying to figure out if they have fluoride-induced acne. Even if you are still exposed to fluoride from other sources, 30 days of fluoride-free drinking water should be enough to give you a good indication if fluoride is affecting your skin. If you don't want to invest in a distiller, you can purchase distilled water by the gallon at most grocery stores.
To make your own distilled water at home, I recommend the Waterwise 4000. It has a stainless steel condenser, a glass jug, and a carbon post-filter for removing VOC contaminants that have a lower boiling point than water. It is also manufactured by a small family-owned business in Florida with a long track record of strong customer satisfaction and support.
Because distillation removes 99.9 percent of minerals and lowers the pH of drinking water, some people are concerned about the long term health effects of drinking distilled water. If you are concerned about consuming mineral-free water, there are many things you can do to recondition your drinking water. You could throw in a pinch of sea salt, add an electrolyte powder or a greens supplement, experiment with a stylish alkaline pitcher or water bottle, or use distilled water to make lemon water or herbal tea.
For those who do not like to drink distilled water, the next best option for a countertop unit is this reverse osmosis system from Aqua Tru. Like the Waterwise 4000, it requires no installation, however it is not quite as effective at removing fluoride. If you are able to install an under-counter unit, there are many quality reverse osmosis systems out there. I like the Home Master reverse osmosis system, in part because it has a high flow rate and also runs through a remineralizer two times (once before entering the RO tank and once after) to add raise the pH of the water and add calcium and magnesium. They also offer a reverse osmosis unit with a built in ultraviolet light, an EPA-approved method to sterilize 99.99% of microorganisms.
Unfortunately I can not recommend activate alumina filters for removing fluoride, such as those used in Berkey water filter systems. Although activated alumina does remove fluoride, the amount of fluoride it removes depends on many factors. When some of our readers tested normal household water after using these filters, it often still contained a significant amount of fluoride.
The Best Water Filter for Filtering Fluoride from the Shower and Bath
When I was researching the dermal absorption of fluoride for my book, I was shocked when I came across this insightful article about the skin absorption of contaminants from the Office of Research and Standards at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering. The researchers conclude that "skin absorption of contaminants in drinking water has been underestimated and that ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure." (emphasis added)
There are currently no shower or bath filters that remove fluoride, although I still recommend installing one for the chlorine alone (I like this one from Pelican because the "up design" allows the filter to contain more filtering media). The best way to remove fluoride from the shower and bath is to install a whole house filter. Whole house reverse osmosis systems are expensive and waste a lot of water. A whole house bone char filter is a better option.
The EZ-Connect Compact Fluoride Removal System from Pelican is ideal for apartments, condos, and smaller homes. It comes with a carbon filter to remove chlorine, chloramines, and a wide range of organic contaminants. A third cartridge can be added specifically for lead.
For larger households, you will need the PF6 Whole House Fluoride Filter. It comes with a pre-filter to remove sediment. This system can handle up to 15 gallons per minute and has a 3-year capacity. Replacement media can be purchased here. I've heard lore of ambitious DIYers purchasing bone char media separately to build their own low-budget fluoride filter systems.
How to Know if Your Water Contains Fluoride
Whether you drink city water, well water, or bottled water on a daily basis, the first step is to educate yourself on the precise fluoride content of your drinking water.
If you consume city water, the easiest way to determine the fluoride content is to review the latest water quality report from your local water supplier. This annual report is required by law to be available to consumers. Many water providers post it on their website or send it out in one of their monthly billing cycles. It is sometimes referred to as a "Consumer Confidence Report."
To find your most recent water quality report, do an internet search for "water quality report" and the name of your town. You can also call your local water provider and ask for a copy directly.
To illustrate how to read these reports, here is a screenshot from one of the first water quality reports I viewed when I started to suspect fluoride might be the cause of my cystic acne. It was the 2004 water quality report from Newport, Rhode Island. (When I was stationed in Newport with the Navy, my skin was at an all time low.)
Sample Water Quality Report with Measured Fluoride Levels
In this report from Newport, the fluoride content of the water is 1.41 ppm (parts per million), but the amount detected in tests throughout the year varied from 0.08 to 1.41 ppm.
If your water quality report indicates a level of fluoride near 0.7 ppm or above, it is likely your water supply is artificially fluoridated. The average fluoride content of fresh water is 0.05 ppm. I usually tell people anything under 0.1 is a good level to see on your report.
If your water quality report lists the level of fluoride as ND, that's even better. ND stands for not detected.
Thanks to some wily science on behalf of corporate polluters in the mid-1900s, the CDC recommends an "optimal" level of 0.7 ppm fluoride in drinking water because they think it helps prevent cavities in children (see episode 2 of my podcast, The #Fpollution Podcast, to learn more about the pollution story behind fluoridation).
As you can see in the note at the bottom of this report, the city of Newport adds fluoride to their water supply. Approximately 70 percent of public water supplies in the United States are artificially fluoridated. The overwhelming majority of fluoride added to water is hydrofluorosilicic acid (FSA), a hazardous waste product of phosphate fertilizer mining in central Florida.
This report also indicates the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for fluoride set by the EPA, which is currently 4.0 ppm. This is the amount of fluoride in public water supplies that is allowed by law. The maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) is also 4.0 ppm. This is the amount of fluoride the EPA claims causes health effects.
Considering over thirty percent of American children now have dental fluorosis severe enough to require treatment, dental fluorosis obviously occurs at much lower levels than this. The EPA justified raising the safety standard to 4.0 by refusing to consider dental mottling and discoloration a health effect.
Well water can also contain high amounts of fluoride. In most states, testing is up to the homeowner. The CDC recommends testing well water for fluoride every three years.
The fluoride test from My Tap Score is the most sensitive test I've found and can detect fluoride as low as .001 ppm. They also offer a number of comprehensive test kits for well water that all measure for fluoride. If desired, you can order add-on tests for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and a host of other specialty testing options, too.
If you drink bottled water, the manufacturer should provide an annual water quality report, as well. You might be able to find it by performing an online search for "water quality report" and the name of the brand, or contact the manufacturer. If the company draws water from a variety of springs, the level of fluoride listed on the report will not necessarily reflect the amount of fluoride contained in the bottle you purchased at the store. Usually this isn't a large variation, but it's something to keep in mind.
If you are still unsure of the amount of fluoride in your bottled water, My Tap Score offers a bottled water test or you can measure the amount of fluoride in water by using a fluoride meter. The most inexpensive version is this handheld colorimeter from Hannah Instruments. However, be advised these meters are not always easy to use and the results can be inconsistent. I also hesitate to recommend them because the reagents contain mercury which, like fluoride, is a known neurotoxin.
The Extech FL700 Fluoride Meter is considerably more expensive but it can be used to measure fluoride in a variety of liquids. This is the one I own and in my experience, like the one from Hannah Instruments, it is not as easy to use as you would hope. However, if you like science experiments as much as I do, you might enjoy it.
I hope I have provided at least a few new ideas regarding the best way to filter fluoride from your water supply. I'd love to hear what you decide to use and how it goes! The best way to reach me is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.