Top positive review
20 people found this helpful
More appealing now that you can recycle them (4/5 green stars too)
on July 19, 2014
I currently use a Brita pitcher filter but I've been researching the alternatives in order to decide whether to stick with it. The Soma filters (available only through their website) are nicely made from sustainable materials but they provide no data on how effective they are, and the absence of information seems a little sketchy. The ZeroWater pitcher filter looks compelling, and is one of the few filters to claim reduction of chromium-6 (see below). But perhaps if I was to switch from Brita it would be to the Berkey system which removes a lot of contaminants (chromium-6, heavy metals, and volatile organic carbons) and because of the steel construction and long-lasting filters, appears to be more sustainable.
Meanwhile, the fact that you can now recycle Brita filters through the Preserve Gimme5 program significantly increases the probability of my continuing to buy them. You can find drop-off locations on both the PreserveProducts and Brita websites (they are commonly located outside Whole Foods stores).
Personally my biggest concern with municipal water is the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are not regulated and certainly not understood in terms of health risks (a 2009 NY Times article "That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy" is worth reading). We're now aware of the dangers of endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) but there has been a huge increase in the number of new organic chemicals generated the chemical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries. It's the potential for removal of some of these organic compounds that makes a carbon filter a worthwhile choice for me. Note, however, that a carbon block filter (such as a Brita faucet filter if used at low flow rate) can remove VOCs much more effectively than a pitcher filter. Keeping the water level in the pitcher high enough so that it's in contact with the filter will improve VOC removal efficiency but it probably won't be as effective as a Brita faucet filter or a Berkey system.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found very high levels of carcinogenic chloramine by-products in Washington DC tap water and recommended filtration through carbon. Chlorine and chloramines are often used to disinfect water at municipal treatment plants and can pose health risks if not effectively removed before reaching the consumer.
The EWG also found surprisingly high levels of chromium-6 in tap water (following Erin Brockovich's investigation you would think this issue has been dealt with by now) and Brita filters aren't certified to remove chromium-6. A reverse-osmosis (RO) filter can do it, but considering it wastes 3-5 gallons of water for every gallon purified, RO isn't a very green choice from a water conservation viewpoint and since the water purified by RO is mineral-deficient it's not good for your health either. Alternatively, the ZeroWater pitcher filters (if you can afford them) do remove chromium-6, and they do offer cartridge recycling (where they recycle the both the plastic and the resin) but you pay for postage yourself and get credit in return (which may not cover the cost of your postage). However, based on some of the negative reviews for ZeroWater (mainly citing filter life, bad water, and cartridge price) I've decided that if I switch from Brita it will be to a Berkey system. A key advantage of the Berkey system is that it removes bacteria and parasites, so it can be used to filter unclean water in an emergency. One thing's for sure: any one of my top three options (Berkey, ZeroWater, or Brita) is a whole lot better than buying bottled water.
For more information on Brita sustainability and impact, researchers at the Sustainability Science group at the University of Vermont have written a useful evaluation of Brita filters that you can find on the web.
Overall, I'll give the Brita pitcher filter system 4/5 gold stars for quality of the product and 4/5 "green" stars based on the social-ethical-environmental aspects of producing it.