Do Water Filters Remove Lead? The Surprising Answer

Do Water Purifiers Remove Lead

Many people are concerned about the effects of lead in their water, and with good reason. 

Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that is not naturally found in the human body and can wreak a lot of havoc when present. Young children and developing babies are especially susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning such as, developmental delays and reduced IQ as well as stunted growth, and attention difficulties. 


Although the brains of adults and older children are better equipped to combat the harmful effects of lead, its presence is unwelcome in any form in the human body and is harmful to anyone if accumulated.

The goal should be complete elimination of lead in any drinking water. 

The problem with this is twofold:

First, before these harmful effects were recognized, lead was prevalent in home pipes as well as other common items used in homes such as paint. The degree of harm from lead pipes has varied and in most cases authorities have taken the necessary measures to remove the dangerous pipes, thus mitigating the problem.

However, there are still places where lead pipes have not been removed and the only reliable way to know for sure that lead is not in a particular source of drinking water is to have that water tested.

The second hurdle is that not all lead removal methods are equally effective.

If all of this has you alarmed and wanting to rush off and have your water tested for lead (and maybe your children as well), take a breath and keep reading before you panic. As a side note: knowledge is power and we DO recommend you have your water tested and keep in mind the signs of lead poisoning in children.

The most effective way to remove lead from water is an RO system for your drinking water source.

Read on for more details about the filters.

Types of Water Filters that Can Remove Lead 

The important thing to realize is that there are a couple of reliable ways water purifiers can filter out lead. Without giving you an entire science lesson (which I am ill suited to do anyway), keep in mind three types of filters that can get the job done:

  1. Activated Carbon
  2. Reverse Osmosis
  3. Distillation

Let's take a crash course in how each of these works to eliminate lead in drinking water.

1. Activated Carbon

Activated carbon (or charcoal) is carbon exposed to oxygen in order to make it super porous.

Imagine a sponge and all the little "nooks and crannies" it contains. The carbon molecules pull out many different impurities from the water as the porous surface area absorbs them. These filters can come in many different forms but are most common in faucets and pitchers. 

For example, Brita makes a carbon filter that removes lead called Longlast which can go into a Brita pitcher, but keep in mind that not all Brita filters remove lead, just as all carbon filters do not necessarily remove lead.

It's important to read the fine print when you're considering which one to buy.

2. Reverse Osmosis

A filtration technique we've covered in the past in a lot of detail is reverse osmosis or "RO" for short.  

These filters work by forcing water through a series of semi-permeable membranes and multiple filtering stages to remove impurities. RO filters are quite reliable when it comes to removing metals from water, and lead is no exception.

The caveat here is that RO doesn't remove all of the lead (although many RO filters can eliminate up to 98% ).

In terms of a bench mark for what to expect in lead removal, 99% is the minimum that should be removed and 100% is always the goal.

Depending on the RO system you choose and how many filtration stages/methods it has, most will get fairly close.

3. Distillation (steam)

Distillation is a relatively slow process that uses electricity to purify water. In terms of efficacy at removing lead, distillation is probably the gold standard.

Distilled water has virtually no impurities but the process is more elaborate (time consuming) and isn't always ideal or even possible since it requires electricity.

Distillation heats water so that it boils and then the filter captures the vaporized water which is free of contaminants.


In conclusion, the dangers of lead are significant and concerning enough to warrant immediate steps to remove it completely from drinking water.

The prevalence of lead pipes in past construction and the fact that lead is not recognizable  without testing, both heighten the risk of consumption to the general public. However, the good news is that eliminating lead from drinking water is possible and can be relatively easily and reliably done by carbon filtration, reverse osmosis or distillation.

Hopefully, you are feeling empowered and equipped to at least know where to start to keep yourself and your family safe from the harmful effects of lead.

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