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What’s in your water?

Though U.S. drinking water has been protected under the Safe Drinking Water Act since 1974, experts warn that tap water increasingly does not meet health-safety guidelines.

A recent investigation by The New York Times found that, since 2004, some 62 million people in the U.S. have been exposed to drinking water contaminated with thousands of chemicals—albeit in low concentrations—that are not regulated under federal law.

Reports of unsafe drinking water pouring from taps can be alarming. But before you panic, you should check your municipal water report and also have your drinking water tested.

If tests find lead in your drinking water and the level is below 150 parts per billion (ppb), a filter can make your water safer to drink. Faucet water filters are certified for lead reduction only up to 150 ppb. If lead levels are higher or if tests reveal other concerns, such as arsenic, bacteria, or parasites, contact your local health department for advice.

Of course, the best way to ensure clean and safe drinking water is to protect the source. Watersheds act as natural filters that remove chemicals, pollutants, and sediment. Citizens can also urge Congress and the federal government to update the Safe Drinking Water Act to include and regulate potentially hazardous new chemicals.

In the meantime, many consumers are turning to faucet water filters for added peace of mind.

How to use faucet water filters

The first step in determining whether a faucet water filter might make your tap water cleaner is to find out what’s in your water, and if it contains any dangerous, unregulated chemicals.

If possible, check out your annual water-quality report—also called a consumer-confidence report—from your water supplier. Some reports are available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Web site. These reports can be difficult to interpret, so download a guide to reading them at the Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water’s Web site.

The Environmental Working Group’s “What’s in your water?” tool is another useful mine of information on local water supplies. The nonprofit recommends that most people in the U.S. filter their tap water.

Purchasing faucet water filter

If you decide to purchase a faucet water filter, experts recommend selecting filters certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, which tests products to ensure that they remove what is required by water-filter manufacturers.

Once you know what’s in your tap water, consider filter types that best suit your family’s water consumption and budget. Contaminant removal claims vary, even within filter types. To be assured a filter will remove a certain contaminant, the package should say the filter meets NSF certification for that substance. NSF International is a nonprofit testing lab that also develops standards for the industry. Third-party labs that certify products to NSF standards include CSA, UL, and WQA, so you may see their certification seals too.

It is important to research and ask your local government about the state of your drinking water. If it can be mitigated by faucet water filters, choose the best fit for your need and is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation.