There has been a scientific consensus for more than half a century that lead is extremely detrimental to our health. That is why it is so alarming to discover repeatedly that our tap water still contains it.
If you don’t want to shower in water that contains this toxic metal, below you will find a list of shower filters that remove it. You will also learn why lead in shower water is harmful as well as the mechanisms through which shower filters remove it.
What is Lead?
Lead is a metal that is naturally found in the earth’s crust and in soil, but most of the lead in our environment originates from our own activities and consumer products. These include gasoline (now outlawed), paint (in homes built before 1978 and family treasures), water pipes (before 1986), batteries, lead solder, fishing sinkers, and so on.
Lead leaks into our soil, water, and air from all these activities, and that is why it is found in your shower water.
Why Should Lead be Removed from Shower Water?
While a lot has been written about the adverse health effects of ingesting lead by mouth, lead can also be absorbed via our skins and by our hair. And even though lead is not absorbed by our skins at the same rate as it is from our digestive tracts, the bit that is absorbed can still do damage.
- Absolutely no level of lead in our bodies is safe. In 1990 already, scientists found that lead at such low levels that it was barely measurable still caused cognitive impairments in children that was associated with high academic drop-out rates even as adults.
- A 2014 study shows that skin exposure to lead can cause this metal to build up in our livers where it causes oxitive stress and eventually liver damage.
- When the skin absorbs lead, it interferes with the function of four skin proteins. As such, it compromises the skin’s ability to fight oxidative stress and cell death, and it prevents wound healing and the creation of new skin cells. From this you can expect skin that ages quickly, heals slowly, and develops scars.
- Scientists have not investigated the infiltration of lead into hair via shower water, but it does infiltrate via hair treatments, suggesting that it can enter via topical contact. Once lead is in hair, it causes hair damage and splitting.
- No research has been performed on the amount of lead that enters the eyes through shower water, but scientists have discovered that lead easily builds up in the eyes and that lead poisoning causes cloudy vision, poor vision in low light, irritation, and cataracts. Accordingly, it is probably a bad idea to make it easy for it to enter.
- Lead can cause inflammation, infection, and oxitive stress in the middle ear.
Since most of us have small nicks on our skins, we probably absorb more lead than we think from our shower water, which is why it is so important to remove it.
Which Filters Can Remove Lead from Water?
There are only two filters that can remove lead: a KDF 55 and a KDF-C filter. Only the former is really used in practice.
KDF 55 technology was invented and patented in the United States in the 1980s.
The EPA has certified this technology as pesticidal, meaning that it is able to remove bacteria, algae, and fungi.
Producers of shower filters often employ KDF filtration media in combination with other filter types like carbon filters.
How Do KDF 55 Filters Remove Lead?
A KDF 55 filter consists of high-purity copper and zinc granules and works through an electro-chemical reaction with metals in the presence of water.
Metals like lead, mercury, chromium, and others are all water-soluble and consist of positively-charged ions.
When they hit the high-purity copper and zinc granules in the filter, a chemical reaction changes them from soluble to insoluble. Once they are insoluble, they are large enough to be caught by the filter and blocked from passing through.
10 Shower Filters That Remove Lead
1. AquaBliss Multi-Stage Shower Filter – SF220
The AquaBliss Multi-Stage Shower Filter includes a KDF 55 filter to remove lead and other heavy metals.
It is another in-line model that fits to the pipe just before your shower head with an installation that is very simple with only hand-screwing required.
The filter needs to be replaced every six months or after every 10000 gallons of water.
- Easy to install.
- Works with any shower head: fixed, rain, and handheld.
- Two mechanisms to prevent filter contents from spilling into shower.
- Two mechanisms to filter out chlorine.
- Cannot remove chloramine.
- No independent laboratory tests available.
2. Berkey Shower Filter
It removes everything from heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, chlorine and all its byproducts, bacteria, viruses, fluoride, and many, many more.
It includes a handy back flush attachment that makes it easy to flush out all the contaminants that are caught by the filter.
- Effectiveness verified by independent laboratories.
- Thorough removal of lead.
- Removal of more than 99 percent of more than 100 contaminants.
- At one year or 20,000 gallons, the filter lasts unusually long.
- Fairly pricy.
3. Invigorated Water pH ENERGIZE 15-Stage Shower Filter
The pH ENERGIZE 15-Stage Filter includes a KDF 55 filter to remove lead and other heavy metals in its easy-to-install in-line chrome device that fits any shower head.
In addition, it includes a zeolite filter to help the KDF 55 filter with metal removal, a coconut shell activated carbon filter to remove chemicals and odors, and calcium sulfite to remove chlorine and byproducts.
What makes it especially good is its tourmaline filter to increase alkalinity by a little and its maifan filter that ads healthy alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium.
The filter lasts for six months or 10000 gallons of water.
- Two filters to remove lead and other metals.
- Ships with an extra filter.
- Donates part of the purchase price to charity.
- No independent laboratory results available.
4. Brondell VivaSpring Compact Shower Filter
The Brondell VivaSpring Compact Shower Filter, unlike some other models on this list, takes a 100 percent KDF 55 approach to remove lead, other metals, and chlorine.
Instead of risking that the individual elements in the filter become less effective because of being mixed with lots of other filter elements, and instead of risking that several mechanisms might slow down the water flow, the VivaSpring is small and straightforward: 100 percent KDF 55 bought in the United States. This enables it to remove lead and other metals, chlorine, and bacteria, to a standard approved for drinking water by the National Sanitation Foundation, as the notes below explain.
It’s tiny, the filter lasts for six months or 10000 gallons, and it fits to your existing shower head.
- It’s small and unobtrusive.
- Easy, no-tools-required installation.
- Extremely cost-effective.
- Cannot remove alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium or pharmaceuticals, hydrogen sulfide and related odors.
5. Aqua Earth 15 Stage Shower Filter
The Aqua Earth 15 Stage Shower Filter removes lead, other metals, and chlorine via its KDF 55 filter.
In addition, it removes chemicals, odors, and even a bit of lead and metals via its coconut shell activated carbon filter, it reduces the hardness of water, and it adds vitamin C to the water to keep your skin and hair healthy, which research shows makes sense.
The filter lasts for six months or 10,000 gallons.
- Ships with a spare filter cartridge.
- Compatible with all shower heads: rain, fixed overhead, and handheld.
- Includes vitamin C for skin health.
- Reduces the hardness of water.
- No independent laboratory testing.
- Very little information available on the filtration mechanisms included in the filter.
6. Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter
The Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter uses a two-stage filtration process, one of which is a KDF 55 filter to remove lead, other metals, and chlorine.
The only other filtration mechanism is coconut shell carbon filtration that also removes metals, chemicals, and odors and ads a faint coconut smell and taste to the water. As such, it includes two filters to filter out lead.
It comes with a shower head with multiple settings, but if you want to keep your existing shower head and buy only an in-line filter, the Aquasana AQ-4100NSH Deluxe Shower Water Filter is exactly the same as this one but without the shower head.
An old laboratory test shows that it can remove more than 99 percent of chlorine, but no independent information is available on the amount of lead it removes.
- Two mechanisms to filter out lead.
- Adjustable shower head included or excluded.
- On the pricy side, so look for special deals.
- No independent test results available for the removal of lead.
7. AquaHomeGroup Luxury Filtered Shower Head Set
The AquaHomeGroup Luxury Filtered Shower Head Set uses 15 filtration mechanisms, including a KDF 55 and an activated carbon filter to remove lead.
Its Activated carbon filter can further remove other metals and chemicals, its calcium sulfite filter can help with the removal of chlorine; and its Alkaline Ceramic Balls removes the acidity from the water so that it isn’t too harsh on your skin and hair. It even ads vitamins C and E for skin health.
The filter itself is chrome and it comes with an aluminum shower head for rust-proofing.
The filter lasts the standard of six months or 10,000 gallons.
- Adds skin-healthy vitamins to the shower water.
- Beautiful gift boxes that include extra vitamin C cartridges and shower caps.
- An above-average rating on Amazon.
- Not terribly expensive, but a bit above average.
- No independent testing to verify its ability to remove contaminants.
8. ADOVEL High Output Shower Head and Hard Water Filter
The ADOVEL High Output Shower Head and Hard Water Filter is, as the name says, a filter and shower head all in one, and the 15 filtration methods includes both KDF 55 and activated carbon to remove lead and other metals.
It also removes chlorine and other impurities, and then puts a lot of effort into balancing the pH of the water and adding healthy minerals, oxygen, and vitamins.
The chrome shower head is a 90-nozzle rain shower head and the filter cartridge lasts three to six months, depending on the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.
- Comes with a spare filter.
- Doesn’t just remove bad substances, but also adds beneficial ones.
- 18 months of personalized support.
- A low flow rate of only 1.36 Gallons per Minute.
- No independent testing has been performed to verify filtration ability.
9. T3 Source Showerhead Shower Filter
The T3 Source Showerhead Shower Filter uses a KDF 55 and a calcium sulfide filter to remove lead and other metals, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, and other unspecified water contaminants.
The shower head is fully adjustable with seven different speed and pressure settings, but be warned that it is really large.
- The best filtration mechanisms for lead removal.
- Fully adjustable spray settings.
- Extremely expensive.
- Slightly below average Amazon ratings compared with the other models on this list.
10. Qwench Pure Shower Filter
The Qwench Pure Shower Filter uses 100 percent KDF 55 filtration media in its filter to remove lead, other heavy metals, and chlorine.
It is a simple filter at a relatively low price.
- The best filtration mechanism for lead removal.
- An unusually long six-month full-refund return period.
- Contains no carbon that can blacken your water.
- Amazon reviewers report leaking without the application of tape on both ends.
Literally no scientific research has been performed on individual shower filters, and the Berkey Shower Filter is the only filter on this list for which independent laboratory testing has been conducted. This means that we should take most claims with a pinch of salt.
But since we know that the National Sanitation Foundation has certified KDF 55 technology as producing drinkable water, we can probably trust shower filters that employ this medium to keep the lead levels to the very minimum.