Dear Tory: What's the scoop on water filters?

Dear Tory,

I recently moved from NYC to Hong Hong. I am trying to find a water filter for our faucet but the information on the local products isn't great (aka it's all in Chinese) and I tried to order the ZeroWater filter through Amazon but it won't ship here. I have been reading a lot about the negative effects of fluoride in water and want to make sure the filter removes as much of it as possible, especially since I have low thyroid already (possibly from fluoride?!?!). Allegedly there is also a lot of lead in the water here too, so I need to get one that filters that bad stuff out as well.

What are your thoughts on water filters? 

Dear Water Drinker (haha),

Considering water is essential to the life of every cell in your body and the health of every cellular function occurring within your body, it makes sense that you want the good stuff. Every time you ingest something, whether it be water, air or food, the chemicals mixed in with that substance tag along and lodge themselves inside your parts. Sure, we have a natural filtration system within us that is constantly identifying foreign stuff that doesn’t belong, and promptly removing it through urine, feces and exhalation-- but we have *so many* chemicals ambushing us now, that it’s hard for the body to keep up. (Wanna know more about detoxing those chemicals? Download my free ebook here.)

Do some people drink dirty water and survive? Yes. Do some people drink tap water and never experience an apparent ailment that ties back to their tap water consumption? Sure. But, according to EWG, tap water can contain over 300+ contaminants so if you’ve got the chance to avoid some of that crap for the sake of your cells, I say go for it.

Some of the grimiest contaminants found in tap water are:

Fluoride: In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first city in the world to intentionally fluoridate its water after 44 years of research as to how natural fluoride affects teeth. It was discovered that too much fluoride causes severe browning of the teeth-- but also, the hardening of enamel, which protects teeth from cavities. This discovery led to a controlled amount of fluoride being added to public water sources around the US-- ‘dramatically improving’ the health of teeth. At least, that’s the story we are told. 

UNFORTUNATELY, you can control the amount placed in water-- but you cannot control how much water an individual consumes. Additionally, fluoride is also in our toothpastes, mouthwashes, processed foods and beverages-- contributing to a massive overdose of this unregulated, (not even FDA approved) drug. Aside from other hairy side effects (which, let’s be honest, are just straight up effects), fluoride is an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system, or your hormone system, is made up of the chemical messengers that are responsible for dictating how and when processes within you take place. This means fluoride may produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans ingesting it.


Other Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: As we learned from fluoride, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mess with hormonal activity in your body. Endocrine disruptors may turn off, turn on, or alter the instructions hormones carry, consequently affecting the cells, organs and tissues in one’s body. 

Here is a 2010 testimony in front of a congressional committee on the issue:

“Over the past fifty years, researchers observed increases in endocrine-sensitive health outcomes. Breast and prostatic cancer incidence increased between 1969 and 1986 ; there was a four-fold increase in ectopic pregnancies (development of the fertilized egg outside of the uterus) in the U.S. between 1970 and 1987 ; the incidence of cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) doubled in the U.K. between 1960 and the mid 1980s ; and there was an approximately 42% decrease in sperm count worldwide between 1940 and 1990.”

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs): VOCs are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature (meaning they’re very inhalable). Some VOCs you may recognize are formaldehyde and acetone. Some items that release VOCs you may recognize are cosmetics, air fresheners, carpets, gasoline, moth balls, adhesives, cleaning products and .. many, many more. 

Herbicides and pesticides also contain VOCs and due to water run-off from crops, those VOCs make it into our water supply. 

Research shows that long-term exposure to VOCs (so uh, drinking water your whole life) can result in cancer, liver damage, kidney damage and Central Nervous System damage.

Heavy Metals: Some heavy metals found in tap water are arsenic, lead, mercury, copper and cadmium. Severe effects of ingested heavy metals are cancer, organ damage, reduced growth and development, nervous system damage, and even death. (Fluoride is also a heavy metal).

So yeah, I think filtering your water is a great idea. Problem is, not all filters are capable of filtering out all of the above mentioned garbage. Knowing what’s in your water would be helpful to determine which kind of filter you’d need to buy-- and the best way to do that is to hire professionals to investigate a water sample.

In Hong Kong, you can go through the Hong Kong Standards and Testing Centre and get an answer within 2 days. (For everyone else, google a local water testing lab in your area).  If that’s just annoying and expensive, just assume you’ve got a little bit of all of it in your water!

The best, all-encompassing filter I could find was… The Berkey Water Filter! It ships internationally, too. It’s big and kinda ugly-- but here are the specifics on its capabilities:



Ok, so what about the typical water pitcher filters we all use? They are better than nothing and generally reduce chlorine-- but they do not have the ability to remove fluoride, other heavy metals, other endocrine disruptors and VOCs. (Brita claims to remove Zinc, Cadmium, Copper, Chlorine and Mercury). 

Another note: Bottled water is usually just tap water. Sometimes it's tap water with ADDED chlorine-- beware! ALSO, the plastic from the bottle leeches into your water... contaminating it. Your best bet for holding/transporting water is glass or stainless steel that has a 100% food grade stainless steel interior with no plastic lining.



PS. When your water is nice is clean-- aim to drink at least 2 liters a day. 

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