Medically reregarded by Debra Rose Wilboy, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Emily Shiffer — Updated on June 21, 2019

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If you have actually a water filter pitcher sitting in your fridge right now, you most likely don’t think a lot of it — just fill it up and you’re great to go, right? But as soon as was the last time you readjusted the filter?

If you’ve been sipping on that Brita water bereason you can’t stand tap water and haven’t swapped in a new filter yet, we’ve gained some news for you. Your filtered water might not be that pure after all.

You are watching: Can brita filters make you sick

In fact, it may even be worse than as soon as it came from the tap. But before you freak out, here’s whatever you must know around water filter pitchers, and exactly how to find out if you’re using them — and also protecting yourself — effectively.


How perform water pitcher filters work?

“Different pitcher filters have actually various kinds of media in them, depending upon the brand — most usage set off carbon to minimize contaminants and also impurities,” says Rick Andrew, director of the NSF Internationwide Global Water regimen. “Activated carbon functions with adsorption, interpretation that it attracts the contaminant molecules and also they adhere strongly to the carbon.”

The big surface location of the carbon acts like a sponge that absorbs contaminants as tap water passes with. These filters remove:

metals like lead, copper, and mercurychemicals prefer chlorine and also pesticidesorganic compounds that influence the taste and smell of water

For example, the Brita water filter pitcher provides a coconut-based set off carbon filter that clears chlorine, zinc, copper, cadmium and also mercury.

However before, triggered carbon filters don’t rerelocate all nitprices, liquified minerals, or bacteria and also virprovides in water through the absorption process. Unlike metals, they pass through the filter bereason these don’t bind to the carbon.

That said, dissolved minerals in water aren’t necessarily hazardous and many tap water has actually currently been treated to remove bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. So, it’s not typically a large deal if this stuff slips via.

Some filter kinds incorporate a material dubbed ion exreadjust resin which deserve to rerelocate “hardness” from water, or calcium and also magnesium ions.

Water filter pitchers are an affordable, easy-to-use option for purifying your water, which is why they’re so renowned. According to Consumer Reports, yearly filter costs per year variety from $32 to $180.

Ideally, your water pitcher filter label need to show it’s NSF-certified, which suggests it meets particular requirements for sanitation and also efficacy. “Certification of filters allows everyone understand the product has been tested and meets the requirements of NSF/ANSI 53,” states Andrew.

Other at-residence filter therapies incorporate reverse osmosis and also distillation devices, which are the a lot of efficient but likewise much even more expensive and also complicated. These include things like refrigerator filters, under-the-sink filters, and also even filtrations devices for your entire home.


When you need to adjust your filter counts on the brand also and also model you have actually.

“The many necessary thing for consumers to remember is that they really have to change those filters according to the manufacturers’ referrals or they aren’t going to be effective,” claims Andrew. “They are certified to minimize contaminants only according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”

The product instructions should tell you exactly how long your filter will last. It’s typically measured in months or exactly how much water has actually been filtered, typically in gallons. Some pitchers also have sensors that show as soon as it’s time to swap in a brand-new one.

Product and also filter life

Here are examples of how often you should rearea the filter for five renowned brands of water filter pitchers.


Brand and also modelFilter replacement requirements
Brita Grand also 10-cup pitchereexceptionally 2 months or after 40 gallons
PUR Classic 11-cup pitchereextremely 2 months
Zerowater 10-cup pitcherafter 25–40 gallons, depending upon tap water high quality
Clearly on Filtered 8-cup pitcher eextremely 4 months or after 100 gallons
Aquaequipment 8-cup pitchereincredibly 6 months or after 150 gallons

These may differ slightly depending upon just how often you use the pitcher. But if we’re being honest, the majority of of us probably aren’t diligent around replacing the filter every two months — let alone eexceptionally 6 months… or annually.


An old filter is not only going to be less effective — and also crazy slow — yet likewise really gross and grimy. So, you’re putting yourself at hazard for drinking whatever before contaminants are in the tap water to start via and also whatever before is flourishing (yes, growing) in that old filter.

“Filters that are not readjusted at the proper time might not work-related to minimize the contaminants that they were originally designed to resolve. If it’s not filtered out, that contaminant could lead to potentially harmful health effects,” said Anattracted.

As we pointed out, your water filter is not killing bacteria. Microbes have the right to both be trapped and also circulation right into your water, and also it’s bacteria stuck in your filter that you need to be worried around.

Yes, your old filter have the right to add bacteria to your water

The moist environment in the pitcher filter is perfect for multiplication, so bacteria deserve to reach better concentrations. This can make you sick if you proceed to usage the old filter.

An older Gerguy research discovered that the amount of bacteria was much less in tap water than filtered water after one week of use at 2 different temperatures. Researchers concluded that the filter had actually a biofilm growing on it, and in some cases the bacteria nest counts in the filtered water was up to 10,000 times those in the tap water. Yikes.


First things first: Tap water that hasn’t been filtered isn’t the same as untreated or “raw” water that you obtain from dipping your cup in a stream. This water isn’t safe to drink. But also treated water can still contain physical, biological, chemical, and also radiological contaminants. Where you live and wbelow your water originates from — a well, ground water, city — and also safety and security regulations and also how it’s treated are all determinants that can identify what’s lurking in your water.

Contaminants have the right to be normally arising or resulted in by human task. The list of junk that deserve to finish up in your drinking water is pretty substantial, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and deserve to incorporate points like lead, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and other hefty metals. Some contaminants are harmmuch less, yet others deserve to be harmful at high levels.

Lead poisoning have the right to occur if lead pipes or faucets are provided in your plumbing device, typically once they corrode. Poisoning have the right to reason delays in breakthrough and learning disabilities in youngsters. In adults, it have the right to cause kidney concerns and high blood push.

The only means to recognize if there is lead in your water is to have it tested, because you cannot see, smell or taste it, according to the CDC.

Biological contaminants include:

bacteria choose E. coli and Legionellaviroffers prefer norovirus and also rotavirus

These have the right to make you really sick, often bring about gastrointestinal difficulties, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and other complications. Tap water is commonly sanitized to remove these yet outbreaks deserve to take place.

Again, these contaminants can be existing in unfiltered, treated tap water or water that’s passed via an expired, ineffective filter.


Usually, you’ll know if the tap water in your area or a location you are visiting isn’t suitable for drinking.

Most tap water in the USA meets the appropriate sanitation requirements and also is safe to drink — via exceptions of course. But if you really aren’t certain whether tap water or water in your filter pitcher is safe to drink, there are a few means to uncover out.

One way is to tell is by looking. Fill up a glass and also check out if you notice any cloudiness or sediment in your water. These may be indicators of contamination and also you either shouldn’t drink it or make sure it’s appropriately filtered initially.

What if the cloudy water is from your water pitcher filter?

“If the filter continues to be in place beyond its lifespan, the water have the right to end up being cloudy because of the influence of microorganisms that have conquered the filter,” claims Andrew. “These organisms are typically harmmuch less, however unpleasant, as a result of their visibility in the filtered water.” But if you can’t tell for certain, it’s finest to just acquire a new filter for your pitcher ASAP.

What if your water looks entirely normal — exactly how can you tell if it’s maybe contaminated?

“It is important that consumers know what is in their water to determine if they need a filter,” claims Andrew. “Local water utilities have the right to administer a copy of their consumer confidence report, which details the top quality of drinking water. People deserve to additionally have actually their water separately tested so they can treat for specific contaminants if crucial.”

If you want to examine the drinking water high quality in your area, you have the right to go to the EPA’s Consumer Confidence Report to discover data certain to your location. This was established by the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments that required claims to perform assessments of all public water units.

You have the right to likewise test your water top quality at home. Your state or neighborhood health and wellness department might sell experimentation kits for free, or you have the right to purchase them online or from a residence development store. You have the right to also have actually your water tested by an EPA-certified laboratory , or speak to the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 for more information.


While it isn’t important to have actually a water pitcher filter in your refrigerator, these carbon filters deserve to aid purify and also remove a organize of contaminants that influence the taste and smell of your water.

However, they won’t kill bacteria and if too a lot gets trapped in an unchanged filter, those microbes deserve to multiply to levels that have the right to make you sick.

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So, if you can’t remember the last time you readjusted out your filter, it’s definitely time to perform so. And if you love drinking from the tap, keep doing you. Happy hydrating!


Emily Shiffer is a former digital internet producer for Men’s Health and also Prevention, and is currently a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness, nutrition, weight loss, and also fitness. She is based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, cilantro, and also American background.