Which Faucet Filters Remove Lead?

NSF-certified faucet filters remove up to 99% of lead from water. Faucet filters use activated carbon filters to remove lead ions from water. While many brands of faucet filters state they can reduce lead, they do not provide water quality tests results to back up these claims. Brita faucet filters are the only brand that has been shown to remove >99.3% lead from water.

Faucet filters are an inexpensive and direct way to remove lead from water. But, it’s important to know which faucet filters can remove lead from your drinking water, as there are several brands that can’t.

While picking a water filter, one of the most important features is how much lead it can remove. In this post, we explain why it’s essential to filter lead from water, and how certain faucet filters do it. We have also provided a list of 5 top brand faucet filters and their capability of removing lead from water.

How faucet filters remove lead

Faucet filters rely on an activated carbon filtration system. Activated carbon cartridges use a process called adsorption to remove lead.

Adsorption refers to the phenomenon where particles ‘stick’ to the surface of the adsorbing material without being absorbed into it. The active (charged) sites of the carbon are negatively charged. When water contaminated with lead passes through the activated carbon, the positively charged lead ions stick to the surface of the negatively charged carbon surface.

You can visualize this process by imagining the carbon filter like a magnet that attracts lead to its surface, allowing filtered water to pass through. Thus, the lead is removed from the water and only clean water passes through the filter.

This process is quick and efficient. Keep in mind that the faucet filter must be changed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

In addition, faucet filters do not use electricity for filtration – they rely on the pressure of the water supply to effectively filter water. Make sure your water supply has enough pressure – if not, use a booster pump or adjust the pressure-reducing valve on your mains water supply pipe.

Use only cold water while filtering through a faucet filter. This is because heat can alter the carbon-lead adsorption bonds and impair the filtration process.

Water filter pitchers are usually able to remove more lead than faucet filters. Water Purification Guide has a comprehensive list of water filter pitchers that remove lead available here.

What is the standard for lead removal?

Previously, residential water filters only had to reduce lead down to 10 ppb, which equated to an approximate 93.3% lead reduction. Thankfully the pass/fail criteria for lead reduction were essentially halved in 2019.

Today, faucet filters tested to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) / American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard 53 means they will reduce lead in water down to at least 5 parts per billion (ppb). To test this, water filter systems are challenged with an 150ppb lead influent and it must be able to reduce levels to 5ppb or lower.

So, if you find a faucet water filter that carries the NSF/ANSI 53 certification, you can be assured it can reduce lead by at least 96.6% or greater.

Some brands will provide their water quality test results that show a higher percentage of lead removal than this, which is great! Other brands will simply show they are NSF/ANSI 53 certified, but you can take this at face value that the product will reduce lead by at least 96.6%.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) state there is no safe level of lead exposure.

Importantly, even though obtaining the NSF 53 certification is voluntary, you should be cautious when a water filter brand claims to remove lead but does not have the certification to back it up.

As discussed above, lead is removed from water through adsorption onto the activated carbon media. So, some brands will say their product removes lead (or heavy metals) simply because it contains activated carbon (like most water filters do).

If you are worried about lead, another thing to keep an eye out for are water filter brands with broad statements such as “NSF certified”. This is because there are other NSF certifications that don’t relate to lead removal.

For example, there is the NSF/ANSI 372 standard, which relates to the amount of lead content used in the solders and fluxes of the product itself. While this is important, it has nothing to do with the products capability to remove lead from water.

Another one is the NSF/ANSI 42 standard, which is commonly used for point of use and point of entry water filtration, but it relates to the aesthetic effects of the water treatment. So, this has to do with removing things such as chlorine, tastes and odors – not about removing lead.

For this reason, we will only include faucet filters that have been tested against the NSF/ANSI 53 standard.

Brands of faucet filters that remove lead

These faucet filters are certified against the NSF/ANSI standard to reduce the lead in water.

Brita Faucet Filters

Brita Faucet filters remove >99.3% lead – which is quite impressive!

This Brita filter makes the top of our list as it’s the only brand that shows the amount of lead it reduces in their water test results. All other brands only claim to “reduce” lead under the NSF 53 certification (which only requires an 96.6% reduction).

Brita faucet filters also reduce asbestos (>99%), chlorine (97.5%), total trihalomethanes (98.7%), and VOCs (99.7%). You can expect a filter life of around 100 Gallons and a flow rate of approximately 0.58 Gallons per minute.

They also come with a filter change indicator. If you’re considering a faucet filter for lead removal, I would get the Brita faucet.

PUR Faucet Filter

PUR faucet filters are certified to reduce lead by 96.6% or more.

The PUR and PUR PLUS faucet water filters (for vertical or horizontal mounts) are certified by the NSF to reduce lead. They will also reduce mercury, chlorine, trihalomethanes, industrial pollutants, pesticides and herbicides, and BPA.

They have a 0.52 Gallon per minute flow rate, which is comparable to most other faucet filters.

Each filter will last around 100 gallons before needing to be replaced, and there is a convenient filter change indicator to let you know when this is required.

iSpring Faucet Filter

iSpring Faucet filters are ANSI/NSF 53 certified and will reduce lead to at least 96.6% – not sure that it is.

These filters have a 500-Gallon filter life and a 1.5 Gallon per minute flow rate. They also reduce chlorine, mercury, cysts, and chloramine.

Culligan Faucet Mount Filters

Culligan Faucet Filters can reduce lead only. It also removes sediment, chlorine, giardia and cysts improving the taste and smell of your water.

They are certified ANSI Standard 42 and 53.

Summary of faucet filters that can remove lead from water.

BrandLead reductionOther contaminants removedFilter Life (gal)Filter Change IndicatorFlow Rate (gal/min)
Pur Faucet Filter99.3%Asbestos, benzene, TTHM, cyst, mercury100Yes0.52
Brita Faucet Filter99%Asbestos, chlordane, toxaphene, chromium, trichloroethylene100Yes0.58
iSpring Faucet Filter98%Chlorine, mercury, lindane, cysts, chloramine500No1.5
Waterdrop Water Faucet Filtration SystemreducedChlorine, fluoride320No0.5
Culligan Faucet Mount Filter98%VOCs, chloramine, fluoride, chlorine, cysts200No0.5

The best faucet filter for lead in terms of lead reduction is Brita, with a rating of >99.3%.

It is important to look at factors like other contaminants and filter life while opting for a filter for your home.

If you’re looking for the filter that filters water the quickest, the Culligan filter is a good bet.

If you need a long-lasting filter, the iSpring faucet filter is great, but the actual amount of lead it removes is unknown

Can Waterdrop Faucet Filters reduce lead

Waterdrop Faucet Filters are not certified to reduce lead in water. Waterdrop faucet filters are currently only certified to NSF standard 42 and 372 and not standard 53 (for lead reduction).

They do reduce chlorine and fluoride. Filters will last around 320 Gallons and you get a flow rate of approximately 0.5 Gallons per minute from the faucet.

How to know if your water has lead in it

Lead does not have any visible trace – you cannot taste, see, or smell lead in the water. The only way to find out if your water has lead is to use a home test kit or get it professionally tested at a laboratory.

Amazon has these home water test kits for lead that are easy to use and are relatively inexpensive.

My Tap Score offer laboratory lead test kits. They send you a sampling pack with instructions, you take the samples and send it off (included in the cost) and they’ll get you the results in about 5 days.

For more information, click the My Tap Score link below:

Test Your Water!

Get your water tested at least once to determine lead levels – especially if you have moved to a new location.

Water Purification Guide has more information on how to know if lead is in your water available here.

Why is lead in water bad?

Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in the earth’s crust. Mined lead is used in car batteries, weights, pigments, cable sheathing, and solders. However, lead from any source is toxic to humans.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that no amount of lead is safe for consumption i.e. the maximum contaminant level for lead in water is zero. This is because even small amounts of ingested lead can accumulate in the body over time and cause adverse effects. The longer an individual is exposed to lead, the more severe the ill-effects.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Pregnant mothers may also be affected by lead contamination and pass it on to their unborn children.

Children affected by lead contamination may suffer from damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, causing impairment in brain and motor functions. They are more susceptible to learning disabilities, hearing impairments, shorter height, lower IQ, anemia, behavioral issues, and impaired functioning of blood cells.

Pregnant women exposed to lead are more at risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and reduced growth of the fetus. The problem is exacerbated if the mother has low calcium levels.

In adults, lead exposure can lead to kidney issues, reproductive problems, hypertension, and other cardiovascular issues.

How lead contaminates our water

Lead is rarely found naturally in water. Lead enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing fixtures. Corrosion refers to the process of metal getting dissolved and worn away by chemical reactions in the presence of water.

If your pipes, taps, and other plumbing fixtures are made of lead alloys or lead solder, this lead may leech into your drinking water. In addition, fixtures with lead solder, chrome-plated, and brass-plated faucets may contain lead and may leech into the water. 

The US Government’s Safe Drinking Waters Act states that the maximum allowable lead content in your plumbing should be  an average of 0.25%, calculated across the wetted surfaces of pipes and plumbing, and 0.2% for flux and solder.

A corrosive reaction occurs between the lead and water – especially if the water is more  acidic or has low mineral content. As a result, lead leeches into your drinking water. If the water is hot, lead can enter the water at a higher rate.

The amount of lead leeching in the water depends on the acidity of the water, the amount of lead in the pipe, how long the water stays in contact with the pipe, and water temperature. As a rule of thumb, the higher the water temperature and acidity, the more lead can leech into the water.

When it comes to well water, old private wells may contain lead in pump fixtures, pipes, lead solder, and packer elements used above the well screen. Brass-plated pump components may also contain lead that leeches into the water. The longer the water stays in the well, the more lead can be dissolved into it.

While recent regulations have banned the use of lead components in plumbing and water supply systems, fixtures installed before the 1980s are more prone to having lead components. This means that it is essential to test your water supply for lead levels if you live in houses where the plumbing is more than forty years old.

The bottom line

In addition to picking your brand of choice, remember that faucet filters work only if you run cold water through them – hot water is a no-no. In addition, faucet filters fit over only standard taps, so make sure your faucet is compatible with a filter. If used properly, a faucet filter can make your water lead-free!

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr is an Earth Scientist who specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water drives her to breakdown the science to provide easy to understand information that everyone can read.

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