Fluoride in drinking water is known to prevent tooth decay, but it’s increasingly linked to a wide range of negative health effects that may outweigh its benefits.
Whether fluoridated water is a friend or foe remains unclear, but if you’re not willing to risk it, you may be wondering — does a water filter remove fluoride? The answer is that some do but choosing the right fluoride reduction water filter is surprisingly challenging.
Stay tuned as we show you the best ways to remove fluoride from water.
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is an element found in the Earth’s crust. Common in groundwater, it’s in a class of contaminants known as heavy metals.
Present in wells but rarely at extreme levels, city water systems nationwide add fluoride to tap water to prevent cavities.
The Fluoride Controversy
The beneficial effects of fluoride were discovered in the 1930s by Colorado dentist, Frederick McKay. Not only did it whiten stained teeth, he noticed, but it also appeared to strengthen tooth enamel and ward off decay.
It wasn’t long before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on adding fluoride to drinking water to improve Americans’ dental health, and by 1950s, public water fluoridation was becoming the norm. But soon, the spell was broken as it became increasingly apparent that fluoridated water had risks.
The Health Impact of Fluoridated Water
In stark contrast to the CDC, the World Health Organization admits there are both benefits and risks to fluoride in drinking water.
Fluoride remineralizes teeth and binds with tooth enamel to form a less porous surface that resists tooth decay. Kids have fewer cavities and better oral health.
Research, however, has identified possible adverse health effects that can’t be ignored, including:
Dental fluorosis is the inadequate mineralization of tooth enamel in children. When excessive fluoride is consumed before age nine, it can cause white spots and streaks on teeth. In its most severe form, is may result in irreversible brown staining.
Early studies suggest that fluoride in tap water can displace iodine uptake by the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism.
Skeletal fluorosis occurs when excessive fluoride binds to the calcium in bones, weakening their structure over time.
Higher rates of chronic kidney disease have been found in areas where the water supply contains more than 2 mg/L of fluoride.
Too much fluoride has been implicated in a wide range of nerve-related disorders contributing to developmental and cognitive disabilities in children.
How much added fluoride is too much? Why is fluoride added at all when kids are already consuming fluoride in fluoridated toothpaste, mouthwash and food?
The EPA recommended lowering fluoride levels in the water supply from 1 mg/L to 0.7 mg/L in 2011 but has been reluctant to change the drinking water standards while research continues. Up to 4.0 mg/L is permitted by law with a non-enforceable guideline of 2.0 mg/L.
Do Water Filters Remove Fluoride?
No water filter removes all possible contaminants, and fluoride is particularly stubborn. It takes more than a garden variety filtration system to manage high fluoride levels.
If you have an existing filter, chances are it’s not one of the few that do — a plus if you’re satisfied that fluoride is safe, and you want the dental benefits.
But if you’re not convinced, let’s review which water filters you can rely on to remove fluoride from water.
Does a Carbon Water Filter Remove Fluoride?
Activated carbon filters excel at removing chemicals that make water taste and smell bad, but the remove little if any fluoride. A carbon cartridge may be part of a reverse osmosis system, but only the RO membrane removes fluoride.
Do Fridge Filters Remove Fluoride?
Refrigerator filters rely on activated carbon to remove off-tastes. They do not reduce fluoride.
Do Water Filter Pitchers Remove Fluoride?
The average water filter pitcher has a carbon filter designed only to remove taste impurities. But better brands, such as Seychelle, Aquagear and Epic Pure, can remove up to 98-percent of fluoride from tap water.
Replacement filters cost more than the usual Brita, however, and the pitchers only produce about a half-gallon of water at a time.
Best Filter Systems for Removing Fluoride
The best fluoride water filters maximize fluoride removal while producing enough filtered water to meet your family’s needs.
Reverse Osmosis Water Filters
Reverse osmosis systems render water virtually pure. As water passes through a semipermeable membrane, 99.9 percent or more of contaminants, including fluoride, are sent down the drain.
Activated Alumina Water Filters
Activated alumina water filters remove up to 95 percent of fluoride, plus arsenic and hydrogen sulfide— two contaminants common in well water. Made of aluminum oxide, activated alumina doesn’t add unwanted metal ions to your water.
Check out This Whole house Fluoride removal system
Bone Char Water Filters
Bone char filters are made from charred animal bone. They remove less fluoride than an alumina or reverse osmosis filter — up to 90 percent.
Boiling water doesn’t remove fluoride, but distillation does. Like an RO system, the distillation process effectively removes fluoride and other heavy metals from water — up to 99 percent.
How do you know which filter is best for you? Start with a water test.
Testing Your Water for Fluoride
It’s essential to know how much fluoride is in your water supply before choosing a fluoride removal filter. The higher the fluoride content, the more capable a filter you need.
If you drink city water, the testing has been done for you. Ask treatment authorities for a copy of your annual water quality report. It shows how much fluoride is in your drinking water.
If you own a well, testing is up to you. Fluoride levels are usually lower than in municipal supplies, but the results can be surprising.
Doing a test is easy. Send a sample of unfiltered water to a certified drinking water laboratory or buy a DIY test kit online. If this is the first time you’ve tested your water, try SimpleLab’s Tap Score. Results include objective advice about fluoride water filters.
Have a look at these Fluoride testing kits
Choosing the Best Fluoride Reduction Filter
The best fluoride filters maximize fluoride removal while producing enough filtered water to meet your family’s needs.
There are two general types of water filters. Whole-house systems that are plumbed into your main water line and treat water throughout your home, and point-of-use filters like pitchers, faucet filters and RO systems, that purify 0.05-5 gallons at a time for dinking and cooking.
If you need to filter fluoride, you want a water filter that keeps pace with demand. Other filters will leave you dry and frustrated. You shouldn’t have to choose between effectiveness and volume when it comes to filtering water.
Among point-of-use filters, distiller and pitchers produce the least amount of water while a reverse osmosis system keeps 3-5 gallons handy for immediate use.
Whole-house bone char and activated alumina filters remove fluoride while providing endless filtered water.
Whole-home reverse osmosis systems, however, are relatively rare. Highly effective at removing fluoride from drinking water, reverse osmosis filters are nonetheless slow and will struggle to meet home-wide demand.
Instead, most RO systems are under-sink water filters that produce enough water to meet a family’s drinking and cooking needs.
So which type of filter should you choose? Since fluoride is only risky when swallowed, it’s not necessary to remove it from bathing water.
So, for singles or couples, a water filter pitcher will do. For families, an under-sink reverse osmosis system is a better choice, especially if a water test shows you have other contaminants to remove.
RO systems remove contaminants from lead to harmful chemicals — most filters pale in comparison. And they’re a bargain compared to bottled water. A reverse osmosis system can not only remove fluoride, but it can also fill dozens of reusable travel bottles for work and school. No pitcher can do that.
If you prefer whole-house filtration, an RO system may not be an option, but alumina and bone char water filters remove fluoride and many other potentially hazardous substances. They’re also compatible with other water filters, water softeners and salt-free conditioners.
Fluoride exposure may be a health risk. But before you reach for bottled water, consider the economic and environmental benefits of water filters.