Monday, May 31, 2021

Removing fluoride and chlorine from tap water

After my interview by CNA, some questions came in about the removal of chlorine and fluoride from tap water. 


Unlike other substances in tap water, chlorine and fluoride are added into tap water by the water treatment process. Chlorine is supposed to keep water free of pathogens as the water is conveyed from the water treatment through kilometres of piping (with many other equipment in between) to your home. On the other hand, fluoride is supposed to maintain dental health as the locals here tend to have tooth decay issues in the years after independence. I have written about chlorine and fluoride previously - fluoride & other contaminants in beer, Do we really need water filters?, Evaluating the necessity and usefulness of water filters for domestic tap water, Advice on water filtration in Singapore: alumina, boiling, gravity fed vs. counter-top.

 In recent years, much health concerns have been raised about these 2 additives in our drinking water. Are they safe at the concentrations in tap water? Are they even necessary? As with a lot of health issues, there are arguments on both sides. A lot of times, it comes down to the consumer to decide on getting a water filtration system to remove them for good, old peace of mind. To me, this is perfectly fine as I can attest to the importance of peace of mind from personal experience. What I do have issue with is the selection of an effective water filtration system (aka water filter), if one even exists.

3 points to consider in selecting a water filter

Those who have watched my interview with CNA (CNA has somehow left out these 3 points in their print version) should recall that I have expressed 3 factors to consider in getting a water filter.
  1. Know what you want to remove (or add) from your water.
  2. Find a water filter certified to remove those contaminants
  3. Make sure you can spare the time and money for maintenance

A more comprehensive guide can be found in my article - 3 Critical Questions to Choosing Your Water Filter which can be downloaded for free.

Which water filter can remove chlorine and fluoride then?

Some readers have mentioned their confusion by the vast assortment of water filters in the market. Without going into laborious scientific research, are there any water filters that I can recommend to remove chlorine and fluoride? 


In general, most brands of water filters do not show certification from a reputable source e.g. NSF/ANSI. Furthermore, they do not display evidence of extensive testing of their filters either. Most claims to remove this contaminant and that pollutant are just that - claims.

Naturally, quite a few brands have slick marketing campaigns and impressive designs. In fact, their designs can actually be aesthetically pleasant and functional in piping tap water under the sink to a sleek looking but unobtrusive faucet on the tabletop. However, the question still remains - can the filter perform the job you want it to - removing chlorine and fluoride from tap water? In the majority of cases, I am not confident enough to say they are capable of it.

But I still want a water filter for peace of mind

Yes, I understand the importance of peace of mind so I shall make a recommendation here. 


I strongly suggest getting a Big Berkey fitted with their Black Berkey filter elements + fluoride reduction attachments. (No links provided here. I am sure you can find it easily on the Internet.) Though not actually certified by NSF/ANSI, their filters are extensively tested under NSF/ANSI standards and the detailed results with testing protocols are published on their website. That is a lot more than what the majority of brands can provide to the consumer.


Nevertheless, a caveat is in order - NSF/ANSI standards are not exactly Singapore tap water standards. The most obvious difference is Singapore's tap water has chlorine and fluoride in much lower concentrations. How much can a filter further reduce their concentrations? We did tests on certain water filters in the past and the reduction is in general not fantastic. And unfortunately, Singapore is too small a market for anyone to actually conduct testing of water filters for their effectiveness in treating Singapore tap water.

With that in mind, dear consumer, go ahead and choose your water filter!

Figure: Big Berkey replacement filter elements

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