Keep Your Water Arsenic Free—Here's How
A new study confirms that some popular brands of bottled drinking water have unsafe levels of arsenic. Here's how to inexpensively filter arsenic out of drinking water, plus a few of our favorite reusable water bottles and filters to try.
Bottled water should be the purest, safest type of water to drink; it's a staple in home emergency kits, after all. But recently, an investigation from Consumer Reports found potentially unsafe levels of arsenic in some popular brands of drinking water.
Arsenic is a metallic substance that’s naturally found in groundwater (and elsewhere). The FDA sets its maximum arsenic levels at 10 parts per billion; nothing above that mark can legally be sold in the United States. But other studies indicate that lower levels than that can cause health problems; Consumer Reports singles out any bottled water that clocks in above three parts per billion. Of the more than 130 tested bottled waters, these six brands exceeded that mark: Starkey (the Whole Foods brand), Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, Volvic, Crystal Creamery, EartH2O, and Penafiel. But several other brands also had detectable, though low, amounts of arsenic.
Can Arsenic Be Filtered From Tap Water?
Given this information, why not just stick with tap water? Well, unfortunately, tap water can be contaminated as well. While it is possible to filter out arsenic in tap water—and treatments are common for wells—these filters are an expensive and cumbersome fix.
What about pitcher filters? A 2017 study tested five major brands of pitcher filters, including Brita, Pur, Great Value, ZeroWater, and HDX. These filters aren’t really designed for arsenic; they’re more focused on catching heavy metals, like lead. But the study found that most of these pitchers did, in fact, reduce arsenic levels, though not completely—except for one. The ZeroWater pitcher, which isn’t even particularly expensive, reduced arsenic levels right down to zero.
Another option: reverse osmosis filters. These force water through a membrane which has tiny, tiny holes in it—large enough to let water molecules, but not arsenic, through. They’re fairly inexpensive, at around $175 to $200 on Amazon, and do a great job reducing arsenic. But they have some downsides as well. They can only treat and store a limited amount of water per day, and they also remove the non-harmful chemicals that make some water taste good, though that might not be as big a concern.
Reusable Water Bottles to Try
Once your water has been filtered, you’ll need a way to carry it around. Fortunately, there are so many stylish reusable water bottles on the market (just remember to clean yours regularly). Plastic water bottles have been BPA-free for years now and are lightweight, durable, and inexpensive. Steel and glass bottles are heavier, but can be better at keeping cold water cold. Glass is more fragile, but has the benefit of the cleanest possible taste. Really, though, the choices are easy, because most water bottles are good. The Veegoal glass bottle, $15.99 on Amazon, has great reviews and we love its sleek, modern design. Wirecutter loved this stainless steel Hydro Flask, from $24.90, Amazon. And of course, there’s the hard-to-beat plastic classic, the Nalgene, from $5.66, Amazon.