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How to Test and Filter Your Tap Water for Lead
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How to Test and Filter Your Tap Water for Lead

Jaime Green, Gawker Media

Photo: wabisabi2015 via Visual Hunt

In theory, municipal water supplies are safe. They're monitored, tested, and treated by the powers that be. But of course, we know that doesn't always work. And even if water is clean at its source, old pipes can introduce lead before the water gets to you. Or maybe you get your water from a well, and no one's keeping an eye on it but you.

Whether there's a problem in your city, you drink well water, or you just want to be extra super safe, you may as well test your water for lead before you go crazy spending money filtering it.

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The good folks at Popular Science compared three tap water tests: New York City's free testing service, a $15 First Alert home-testing kit, and the much more comprehensive, and much more expensive, Tap Score. The results from the three tests lined up well, so if your state offers free testing, that's a solid bet. Tap Score offers a range of tests-from $39 for lead and copper to $219 for... like, everything-but, as Popular Science puts it, "if spending 100-200 dollars on a testing kit sounds like overkill, it probably is." But if you drink well water or live somewhere with infrequent municipal testing, it may be worth it to know as much as you can.

So then, once you get your results, what do you do?

For environmental and cost reasons, filtrarion is a better bet than switching to bottled water. Whatever style of filter you use-pitcher, under-the-sink, in-fridge, etc.-you want to make sure it's certified to filter the contaminants you're concerned about.

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NSF International (not to be confused with the NSF) issues, among its many public safety project, certifications for water filters on various standards. A filter that meets Standard 42 filters out the chlorine used to purify water supplies; Standard 53 certification ensures that a filter removes contaminants including lead, mercury, cadmium, benzene, and asbestos; Standard 401 covers "emerging contaminants" like pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals that may not be covered by EPA regulations.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a searchable database of water filters that lets you select for filter type, filter technology, and contaminant. The Wirecutter's pick for pitcher filters is Brita's Longlast Filter, which lasts for six months instead of two, and is NSF-certified on Standards 42, 53, and 401 (which is not the case for the regular Brita filter). You could always use the $15 First Alert kit to re-test your water on the other side of the filter, too. Go forth and stay hydrated.

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