What are the best water filtration systems for toxic PFAS “forever chemical” filtration? According to recent reporting from the US Geological Survey, close to half of Americans are drinking water with per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) over advisory levels. What do you do if your local well or water district has detectable levels of PFAS? You should get a water filter as soon as possible, but which ones are the most effective? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like safest cookware without PFAS and nanomaterials, safest period underwear without PFAS, safest ketchup brands without detectable PFAS, and safest parchment paper without PFAS, now join us for the best water filtration system for home use that filter out toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” and improve water quality based on independent consumer studies. Where can you find this great-tasting water? Scroll down to the bottom or use the clickable table of contents below. Otherwise, stick with us as we bring you more information on water filters.
Disclosure: This post has been medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post contains affiliate links.
Table of Contents
Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Found in Half of American’s Drinking Water
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (aka PFAS “forever chemicals”) include several thousand chemicals (up to 12,000) that have been used for over 50 years for a variety of things like stain and water repellency in jackets & furniture, lubrication of manufacturing equipment, printing, wiring in electronics, non-stick coatings in pans, grease resistance in food packaging, and grease fire fighting foams at military bases and airports. As a result, these chemicals have been detected in our air, water, groundwater, soil, and household dust.
In 2023, the US Geological Survey released a report stating that close to half of Americans have PFAS in their drinking water. According to another study by the Environmental Working Group, as of August 2021, 2,854 locations in 50 states and two territories are known to be contaminated with PFAS “forever chemicals.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has known about the health hazards of PFAS for decades but has failed to limit PFAS discharges into the air and water or set cleanup standards. Mamavation joined a press conference with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discover there was some forward progress being planned to address these issues, but in our opinion, they are VERY late getting to the table on this. We are thankful they have finally decided to make plans of action, however, for the purposes of your family, this may be too late. Based on the prevalence of the contamination already present in the United States, you may need to take immediate action to protect your family by purchasing a water filtration system that is specifically designed to filter PFAS.
Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Have Been Linked to Numerous Human Health Concerns
PFAS “forever chemicals” are pretty much everywhere, which is why they are referred to as being ubiquitous. To underscore that point, researchers have found that 98% of people in the United States have some of these chemicals (PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS, and PFNA) inside their bodies. Coupled with the fact that close to 100% of samples of breastmilk show traces of PFAS, it’s apparent how ubiquitous they really are.
These chemicals are also persistent, which means they build up in your body over time and do not go anywhere for months, years, or decades depending on the specific chemical. Therefore it’s very important to minimize the amount of PFAS chemicals you are exposed to, even if those levels are very small. Unless you avoid PFAS, your exposure level would only increase over time, which can lead to disease.
Here is the list of health problems (PFAS) perfluorinated chemicals are linked with.
- reduction in immunity
- metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- reduced vaccination response
- cardiovascular disease
- affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- increased risk of allergies & asthma in young children
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- increase the chances of miscarriage
- low birth weight
- increase cholesterol levels
- low sperm count
- smaller penis size
- increase the risk of cancer like testicular & kidney cancers
- thyroid disease
In June of 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement saying that PFAS is more toxic to human health and the environment than they previously thought. If you’d like to talk to your doctor about your own exposure to PFAS, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of Community Health Investigations has created this fact sheet to use.
How Prevalent are Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” & What To Do If You Find Them Locally
Due to the widespread nature of PFAS chemicals and increased scrutiny, long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) have been phased out of production and replaced with short-chain “current use” PFAAs and per- and polyfluoroalkyl ether acids (PFEAs), such as GenX, ADONA, and F-53B, and these chemicals are becoming very prevalent in our environment. It’s important to also remember that even though chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) have been phased out, they are persistent so they are still being found in drinking water, soil, and ambient air.
However, it’s surmised by researchers that the main exposure pathway for PFAS “forever chemicals” is through ingestion of contaminated drinking water. But despite all the increased awareness, PFAS are repeatedly detected at elevated levels in treated drinking water because they are not always removed in full-scale water treatment plants. These water treatment plants would need to use expensive technology combining the following methods to be successful and not all have these technologies:
- Granular activated carbon (GAC) absorption (carbon filter)
- Anion exchange
- High-pressure membrane filtration, such as nanofiltration and reverse-osmosis systems (RO)
First, check the water database from the Environmental Working Group to see if your local tap water has any PFAS contamination issues. If you have well water, we recommend having your water tested. You can use Tapscore to test your water for 25 different types of PFAS. If you find anything in the EWG database for your area or inside a Tapscore test, you’ll want to purchase and maintain an at-home water filtration system that is particularly powerful at removing PFAS. This investigation will go over which types of residential water filters are effective at removing the following chemicals via a consumer study in 2020: GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, PFNA, & PFDA. We’ve also added results from a more recent study from the Environmental Working Group in 2023 which covered more additional PFAS chemicals.
Next, choose from several types of water treatment systems like pitcher-style filters, under-the-sink reverse osmosis filters, whole-home filtration with whole-house systems, ion exchange, carbon treatments, etc. Please note that whole home filters are also known as whole-house water filters, whole house water filtration systems, or whole house filtration system. Unfortunately, neither study tested a whole house system, so we are mostly bringing you pitchers and under-the-sink models. Not all systems include water softener for hard water. We prefer NSF certification, & BPA-free parts, but you can find others independently tested (like in this post) to filter PFAS compounds. Some require a plumber to install systems inside your plumbing system. Not all systems will be able to handle different types of PFAS or high levels of PFAS, so do your research before buying.
Then finally, do your best to avoid PFAS in other areas of your home. Mamavation can help you with that here.
Consumer Study on Water Filters Compared Labs of Over 80 Units for PFAS “Forever Chemical” Filtration
In 2020 researchers, including Heather Stapleton from Duke University, published a study in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology Letters called Assessing the Effectiveness of Point-of-Use Residential Drinking Water Filters for Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs). This study looked at 89 water filters inside homes that had contaminated drinking water in North Carolina with PFAS pollution.
In order to assess each filter, the Wilcoxon-Rank sum test was conducted on the pre- and post-filter of each water system on the following PFAS chemicals: GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, PFNA, & PFDA. (Note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the PFAS compounds out there, but ones under a regulatory health advisory.)
There were some main findings:
- All reverse osmosis and dual-stage use filters showed significant removal (p < 0.05) for PFCAs and PFSAs, reducing levels over 90% efficiency.
- All reverse osmosis and dual-stage filters showed removal of PFEAs at 97% efficiency.
- 74% of reverse osmosis and dual-stage systems were able to reduce GenX to a non-detect level.
Then in 2023, the Environmental Working Group released a consumer study that tested for 25 individual PFAS using SimpleLab’s GenX and PFAS Water Test. Taps were flushed completely before 10 gallons of unfiltered tap water were passed through each water filter. The reservoir in the pitcher was filled and drained completely. Then they took samples of water from the pitcher after the filtration was complete and took a sample of water directly from the faucet on the same day to compare detections of PFAS. To calculate the percentage of PFAS reduction achieved by each filter, EWG’s lab contrasted the sum of the total PFAS found in the tap water sample with the PFAS detected in the filtered water.
The differences between the studies are slight but could be major depending on where you live. The EWG study did not offer raw information on what PFAS chemical was inside the drinking water BEFORE the filter started working so we’re not sure what chemicals they were filtering. However, they were able to include 25 different PFAS chemicals total in their analysis, whereas the one done at Duke University only considered 11.
Mamavation did not assess replacement filters, water bottles, fixtures, appliances, warranty, or ease of installation.
What About The Berkey?
The Berkey is one of the most popular water filters of all time. It’s been around for over 30 years and it’s stainless steel design makes it very memorable and sought after by those who are trying to avoid microplastics in water. However, over the years some issues have manifested which calls into question their safesty and effectiveness.
- Berkey Lawsuit #1: Several lawsuits in the past few years have brought some concerns to consumers. One lawsuit One World Filter Corporation v. Koslow Tecnologies Corporation, Evan E. Koslow, and New Millennium Concepts, LTD is a fight between Berkey and a company hired to build their filter membrances. These filters membranes never worked as contracted and were never NSF certified even though this company was contracted to do that. We are left wondering, did they even work past 100 gallons?
- Berkey Class Action Lawsuit #2: Another lawsuit was brought to the court system as a class action. This lawsuit alleges that the Berkey was tested at a lab and the outcome was that it wasn’t able to filter the contaminants after 25 or 100 gallons. However, the company maintains that these tested filters were copycat machines and sucessfully got the case moved from California to Texas where class action consumer lawsuits go to die. We are unsure if these machines were real or copycats.
- Most Berkey Products Are Illegal to Sell to Californians: In 2009, California passed the “no-lead law” that bans any water filters from California that do not meet standards set by third-party ANSI/NSF-approved independent companies that confirms the unit is “lead-free.” Because Berkey refuses to get NSF certification to prove they filter what they say they do, they cannot sell the following units in California: Royal Berkey, Crown Berkey, & Imperial Berkey. California does allow the Travel Berkey and the Big Berkey.
- Aluminum Oxide Filters: Water Filter Guru sent Berkey filtered water off to Tapscore and found an increase in aluminum inside Berkey filtered water. Later, Berkey admited that it’s filters are made from aluminum oxide and alludes that this is perfectly “safe” to have leaching into your water in trace amounts from the filters. However, our advisors disagree. According to Dr. Terrence Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, “Aluminum ions are thought to be toxic in many different ways.”
In the sudy released in 2023 by EWG, they rated the Berkey as their highest recommended brand for filtering PFAS “forever chemicals.” However, EWG did not address the failing Berkey results from Duke University’s study in 2020, nor did they include information on the latest lawsuit or aluminum oxide in their filters, which Mamavation is concerned about. Therefore, Mamavation does not recommend the Berkey for precautionary reasons.
Mamavation’s Recommended Water Filtration Products for PFAS: AquaTru & Clearly Filtered
After we categorized all the water filters, pitchers, and refrigerator filters, it was clear that there was an affordable option! Mamavation is recommending you get an AquaTru system OR a Clearly Filtered system.
More About AquaTru
- AquaTru is the first and only countertop reverse osmosis water purifier. They also sell under-the-sink models using the same technology that was used in the study. You can choose from Tritan plastic or a glass caraffe.
- Certified to NSF standards to remove 85 contaminants, including lead, Chromium-6, Chlorine, Fluoride, PFAs, and more.
- Was the only countertop brand independently tested to have non-detect levels of all PFAS chemicals in the Duke University independent study: GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA
- Two different locations in the study had Aqua Tru machines and both had similar results–all the PFAS was at non-detectable levels.
- This system also removes additional chemicals like fluoride, chlorine, chloramines, lead, hexavalent chromium “the Erin Brockovich chemical,” arsenic, perchlorate, & nitrates.
- You can choose from a regular reverse osmosis OR a system that adds your softener minerals back in like salt, magnesium, calcium, & potassium. Check with your doctor for their recommendations on what type of system you need.
- AquaTru Countertop Water Purifier Connect (with Wifi connectivity built-in meters & tracking) — $499.00 ($349 with automatic Mamavation discount)
- AquaTru Countertop Water Purifier Classic — $449 ($299 with automatic Mamavation discount)
- AquaTru Under Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Purifier — $299
- AquaTru Under Sink Alkaline Reverse Osmosis Water Purifier (with added minerals) — $319
More About Clearly Filtered
- Clearly Filtered was one of the three filters tested that achieved a 100 percent reduction in PFAS from drinking water in the EWG study in 2023.
- Independently tested to NSF standards 42, 53, 401 & 473.
- Targets Fluoride, Lead, BPA, Glyphosate, PFOAs, Hormones & over 365 of the most harmful tap water impurities like VOCs, bacteria, other heavy metals, dissolved solids, pharmaceuticals & pesticides.
- According to the advertising, “Our intelligent technology does not target beneficial minerals” so no need to add minerals back into the water after filtration.
Mamavation reached out to Clearly Filtered and this link will get you a 10% discount on their products. Here are some options you can pick up using the same technology that EWG tested in their study.
- Clearly Filtered 3 Stage Under Sink System with Affinity Technology — $495 (after the link takes $55 off purchase)
- Clearly Filtered Universal Inline 3 Stage Fridge Filter with Affinity Technology — $149 (after the link takes $16 off purchase)
- Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher with Affinity Filtration Technology — $89 (after the link takes $9 off purchase)
Mamavation’s Investigation of Water Filter Systems for Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemical” Filtration
Mamavation is reporting on the results from the consumer studies in 2020 & 2023 and dividing the systems into clear winners and ones that are “not our favorite” in terms of removing toxic PFAS “forever chemicals.” These units will remove PFAS levels in the water supply at various rates so pay attention to details.
- For the “best” category, we pulled systems that were tested against eight or more of the PFAS chemicals and had non-detect levels after filtration. We also pulled recommendations from EWG that did not have aluminum oxide in their filters or pending lawsuits.
- For the “better” category, we pulled systems that were tested against less than 8 PFAS chemicals and had non-detect levels after filtration. This category does not mean they are “worse” per se, but just that there was no independent proof they worked against all the other additional chemicals. We also put here some units that were tested in the EWG study and missed some chemicals.
- For the “not our favorite” category, we pulled brands that filtered PFAS, but not all of them. We also put here some units that were tested in the EWG study and missed more chemicals.
We believe this arrangement will help consumers get their water to the safest levels.
Not Our Favorite Water Filter Systems for Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemical” Filtration
For the “not our favorite” category, we pulled brands that filtered PFAS, but did not bring all the PFAS chemicals to non-detectable levels. These water filters didn’t filter some of these PFAS chemicals: GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA. (Please note that EWG recommends the Travel Berkey because it passed all their tests, however, we kept it here because of a pending lawsuit and also because the filter is made from aluminum oxide and has been shown to increase aluminum in water after filtration.)
- Amana Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- Amazon Basics Pitcher (EWG 2023 study)
- AquaGear Filter Pitcher (EWG study 2023)
- AquaSauna EQ- Whole House -GAC (Didn’t filter all PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA, & PFDA)
- AquaSauna Under Sink OptimH2O Reverse Osmosis Claryum (Didn’t filter all PFHxA or PFHpA)
- Berkey Pitcher (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, & PFHxA)
- Big Berkey with 2 Black Filters (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFPA, & PFHxA)
- Bosch Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all PFBS, PFBA, & PFHpA)
- Brita Pitcher (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, & PFOA, and also didn’t do well in the EWG study either)
- Brita Elite Filter (EWG 2023 study)
- Brita Soho Pitcher (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA)
- Clear Choice Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA, & PFOA)
- Culligan Under Sink Single Stage (Didn’t filter all PFBA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFNA)
- Every Drop Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, & PFOA)
- Filtrete: 3US-PF01 Under Sink single Stage (Didn’t filter all PFBA & PFPA)
- GE Refrigerator (unknown model) (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA)
- GE Smart Water Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, & PFOA)
- GE Smart WaterPlus Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all PFBA & PFHxA)
- HydroViv Under-Sink Single Stage (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- Jenn-Air Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- PUR Faucet (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- PUR Pitcher (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA, and also didn’t do well in the EWG study)
- Primo Reverse Osmosis (Didn’t filter all PFOS)
- Puronics Clarius-WIGEN Whole House-GAC/CIX (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- Puronics Clarius-W Whole House-GAC/CIX (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- Puronics Defender IGEN Whole House-GAC/CIX (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- Samsung Refrigerator Filter (unknown model) (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, & PFOA)
- Seychelle Pitcher Filter (EWG 2023 study)
- Whirlpool Refrigerator Filter (unknown model) (Didn’t filter all PFBA, PFPA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
- Whirlpool WHEM B40 Dual-Stage (Didn’t filter all PFBA & PFOS)
- Whirlpool HDX FMW-5 Refrigerator Filter (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA)
- Whirlpool WHCF-DUF Under-Sink Single Stage (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA)
- Whirlpool Under Sink Single Stage (Didn’t filter all GenX, PFBA, PFHxA, & PFHpA)
Better Water Filter Systems for Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemical” Filtration
For the “better” category, we pulled systems that were tested against less than 8 PFAS chemicals and had non-detect levels after filtration. This category does not mean they are “worse” per se, but just that there was no independent proof they worked against all PFAS chemicals within the study.
- Custom Formulations KDF/GAC Under Sink Single Stage (5 absent chemicals: PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS, PFNA, & PFDA)
- EcoAquaEFF Refrigerator (5 chemicals absent: PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS, PFNA, & PFDA)
- Epic Pure Water Filter Picher (EWG study 2023)
- eSpring 100189 (UV lamp off) Under-sink Single Stage (6 chemicals absent: PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, & PFDA)
- Puronics Micromax 7000 Reverse Osmosis (10 chemicals absent: PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, & PFDA)
- Titan Water Pro NW- RO50-NP35 (5 chemicals absent: PFBS, PFHxS, PFNA, & PFDA)
Best Water Filter Systems for Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemical” Filtration
These brands had PFAS at Minimum Detection Levels (MDL) meaning it was not detected when the filter was running. The following PFAS chemicals were accounted for: GenX, PFBS, PFHxS, PFBA, PFOS, PFPA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, PFNA, & PFDA. These water filters were tested against at least 8 of these chemicals and passed. There was some variance on what chemicals were present in the water at each home and if any were not present, we called that out for you as an FYI.
- APEC Water: RO-45 Reverse Osmosis & Zero Water Reverse Osmosis running in a series (1 absent chemical: PFBS)
- APEC RO-45 Reverse Osmosis (3 absent chemicals: PFOA, PFNA, & PFDA)
- AQUA TRU Countertop Water Filtration Reverse Osmosis (No absent chemicals) (This link will deduct $100 off a unit for you automatically at checkout.)
- Culligan Reverse Osmosis (3 absent chemicals: PFPA, PFNA, & PFDA)
- Culligan Aqua-Cleer Reverse Osmosis (3 absent chemicals: PFBS, PFNA, & PFDA)
- Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher with Affinity Filtration Technology (EWG study in 2023) (This link will deduct 10% off purchase.)
- EcoWater Reverse Osmosis (1 absent chemical: PFBS)
- GE: FXSVC Dual-Stage (3 absent chemicals: PFPA, PFNA, & PFDA)
- GE Refrigerator (unknown model) (1 absent chemical: PFBS) (We are looking further into which one, so please hold off from buying for now)
- Hydroviv Tailored Tapwater & HDX Whirlpool 3 Dual-Stage (3 absent chemicals: PFBS, PFNA, & PFDA)
- Kenmore Dual-stage (3 absent chemicals: PFPA, PFNA, & PFDA)
- Kinetico K-5 Reverse Osmosis (3 absent chemicals: PFBS, PFNA, & PFDA)
- LG Refrigerator Filter (3 absent chemicals: PFPA, PFNA, & PFDA)
- PUR Refrigerator Filter (No absent chemicals)
- Samsung Refrigerator (Unknown model)(3 absent chemicals: PFBS, PFNA, & PFDA) (We are looking further into which one, so please hold off on buying for now)
- Whirlpool: WHEEDF Dual-Stage (2 absent chemicals: PFNA & PFDA)
- ZeroWater 7-Cup 5 Stage Filter (EWG study in 2023, however, it’s also important to note that a recent study by Consumer Labs found this filter added microplastics to the water as well. This is contested by ZeroWater and the differences may be the types of microplastics that were measured in the study. This product did not do well in prior studies at Duke University either, however, it’s possible it has improved since then.)