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Do Water Filters Remove Lead?
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Plumbing 10/3/18

Do Water Filters Remove Lead?

Of course lead is very harmful when ingested, but how can it be avoided in our water? Learn how water filtration systems remove lead and prevent lead exposure here!

With events in Flint, Michigan and many other areas across our nation, lead in potable, unfiltered water is a big concern for many homeowners. In San Diego, even though we have less than desirable water (San Diego is ranked 9th in the nation), our water is not heavily affected by lead and high lead levels is not a major concern.

However, it is possible that trace amounts of lead enter the water system and something that every homeowner should be aware of to safeguard their families from lead exposure. A big question on homeowners’ minds, does a water filter for the home remove lead? First, it is important to understand what is in the San Diego water and who is most susceptible to lead exposure and other harmful elements entering their water systems and drinking water.

What is Potable Water?

Anytime the term potable water is used, it is describing water that is deemed safe for drinking and cooking. It is important to know that the standards of what is safe are determined by the EPA, but also by local municipalities and water distribution services. Potable water is safe to drink but may still contain volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) such as chloramines, as well as small amounts of other harmful chemicals or elements that enter the drinking water at any of the many stages of distribution.

San Diego Water

San Diego is ranked 9th in the nation for the worst water. But why? 

San Diego imports approximately 80 percent of its water from the Colorado River and other water sources along Northern and Southern California. Water directly from these sources is considered non-potable and therefore put through many filtration and disinfection processes prior to reaching a homeowner’s water system.

Once the water leaves the treatment facilities entering the local municipal water delivery supply, contaminants can be reintroduced through aging water pipe infrastructure. It also has the chlorine components, which kill the bacteria. The EPA does not consider chlorine a contaminant, but it can cause poor tasting water and chloramines can be harmful.

Chlorine is added to the water at the disinfection stage. It is the best method to kill bacteria and meet EPA standards of potable water. The resulting water that is delivered is deemed safe for the average healthy individual, if not poor in quality and taste. For individuals that have medical conditions and/or compromised immune systems, the water may be more harmful. Testing the water and installing the proper filtration system is recommended.

Water filtration systems installed in the home can remove these contaminants as well as the chloramines through the disinfection process. It is important to note that there are many types of filtration systems and they vary in functionality and effectiveness. Homeowners should research and ask questions to ensure they are getting the right fit for their needs and the highest quality of water form their water filtration system.

Well Water

For homeowners on a well system, water filtration systems are highly recommended to protect the quality of your water supply. Although a well’s infrastructure is designed to deliver potable water, VOCs, ground contaminants, and even lead can enter the water supply. The most effective and proven method for improving the taste and odor and removing organic contaminants, chemicals, lead and other heavy metals from your water supplyis to use a Reverse Osmosis system or a properly designed activated carbon filtration system. Not all carbon filters remove lead from water systems.

Activated Carbon Filtration

Carbon Water Filter Cartridge In Transparent Plastic Container WActivated Carbon Filtration can be found in Reverse Osmosis R/O systems and whole home water filters. This filtration system can even be found in potable water pitchers that contain a filtering system. However, a potable water filter pitcher, such as a brita filter, and activated carbon systems are only partially effective at removing chemicals and should be used with caution for people with health problems.

Activated carbon whole home filtration systems are installed at the home’s water intake supply. They are self-cleaning, fully automatic and produce filtered water without requiring maintenance from homeowners. The incoming water fills in the tank with the activated carbon and is essentially scrubbed clean. VOCs, chloramines, and other harmful organic and chemical contaminants are absorbed by the carbon, and fresh, clean water is delivered to the home’s water supply and tap. At every tap, homeowners can have peace of mind knowing that they are cooking, bathing/washing and drinking water of the highest quality.

Reverse Osmosis R/O

If homeowners are looking for a simple way to get clean, fresh, odorless cooking and drinking water free from contaminants, reverse osmosis systems are the best choice. R/O systems are installed at the point of use, typically connecting to kitchen faucets underneath the sink. These faucet water filter systems contain a pre-filtration step to remove larger particles from tap water, before the water is pressurized and forced through a TFC (thin film composite) membrane removing smaller particles, VOCs, chemicals, and heavy metals, including lead. The water goes through another filtration system and is delivered to the storage tank ready for the tap. However, that is not the last step. A final filtration system containing granular activated carbon is installed with this faucet filter after the storage tank to deliver the freshest, odorless, great tasting water to your faucet instead of standard tap water.

The last activated carbon filter acts much like the whole house system, just on a smaller scale. The carbon absorbs any final trace contaminants in the drinking and tap water and scrubs the water clean. R/O is one of the effective ways of removing lead.


Distilled water is the process of heating water to the boiling point and then collecting the water vapor trapping and killing bacteria, contaminants, chemicals, and lead. Distillation is not typically found in a residential application, and the drinking water can taste “flat,” as it is water that has had the minerals removed along with the harmful impurities.

Not all water filter systems are equal, and not all carbon filtration systems are designed to remove impurities and harmful contaminants such as lead. Homeowners should research prior to investing in any system and make sure that the water treatment specialist is providing the right solution for them.

Homeowners should also be cautious of off-the-shelf drinking water filtration systems. Although the price point might be lower, the system or pitcher may not deliver what it promises, and homeowners may never know without proper water testing.

To find out what is in your water and how to remove harmful components, contact the water treatment specialists at Bill Howe Plumbing. With over 35 years of unparalleled service in San Diego, Bill Howe water treatment is the most trusted name in San Diego.

Call 1-800 BILL HOWE (245-5469) today for a free in home water evaluation and discover how you can get fresh, pure, odorless and great tasting water in your home.


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