Does a Carbon Filter Remove PFAS? [Learn More]

A carbon Filter containing activated carbon or reverse osmosis membranes is effective at removing PFAS from water supplies.

Some scientists refer to PFAS as “forever chemicals” because they last forever in the environment and build up in the human body. Stapleton said that they are now almost always found in samples of human blood serum.

Environmental Science & Technology Letters came out on February 5 with the researchers’ results, which had been reviewed by other scientists. It is the first study to look at how well point-of-use filters remove PFAS in a residential setting.

They looked at filtered water samples from homes in Chatham, Orange, Durham, and Wake counties in central North Carolina and in New Hanover and Brunswick counties in southeastern North Carolina. Three perfluoroalkal sulfonic acids (PFSAs), seven perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs), and six per- and poly-fluoroalkyl ether acids were looked for in the samples (PFEAs).

One of the PFEAs they tested for was GenX, which has been found in high levels in the water in the Wilmington area of southeastern North Carolina.

Some important points are:

  • Reverse osmosis filters and two-stage filters cut the amount of PFAS, including GenX, in water by 94% or more. Since only a few two-stage filters were tested, more research is needed to figure out why they worked so well.
    On average, activated-carbon filters got rid of 73% of PFAS contaminants, but the results were very different.
  • In some cases, the chemicals were taken out completely, and in other cases, they were not reduced at all. Researchers didn’t find any clear links between how well a filter removed chemicals and the brand, age, or chemical levels of the source water. Researchers said, though, that it’s probably a good idea to change filters often.
  • There were a lot of differences in how well-activated carbon filters removed PFAS from whole-house systems. After filtration, the levels of PFSA and PFCA went up in four of the six systems that were tested.

Because the systems get rid of the disinfectants used to treat city water, bacteria can grow in the pipes of homes.

If you are worried about your health, you can take steps to limit the amount of PFAS you might be exposed to. It has been shown that filters with activated carbon or reverse osmosis membranes can remove PFAS from water supplies.

To work well, water treatment units all need to be serviced on a regular basis. If you don’t keep your water treatment units in good shape, they will stop working well over time.

Other common water treatment systems, like water softeners or iron filtration systems, are not likely to remove PFAS. PFAS won’t go away if you boil water. Even though many homes have whole-house water softening or iron filtration systems, sampling shows that these systems do NOT remove PFAS.

ALSO SEE: Do Pur Filters Remove PFAS?

There are two ways to treat drinking water to get rid of PFAS: at the point of use (where the water is used) or at the point of entry (where all the water in your home is treated). Treatment at the point of use tends to be cheaper than treatment at the point of entry. When the unit is properly installed and cared for, the following treatment methods can remove PFAS from drinking water.

In reverse osmosis, water is pushed through a membrane with tiny holes with the help of energy. A lot of contaminants can’t get through the membrane, but water can. Reverse osmosis is a better choice for treatment at the point of use (not at point-of-entry).

Filter with granular activated carbon: As water flows through the filter, contaminants build up on it.

Evaluation of Perfluorochemical Removal by a Small, In-Home Filter was a study by the MPCA, MDH, and West Central Environmental Consulting of a cheap, easy-to-install point-of-use carbon filter for filtering drinking water at a sink faucet (PDF).
Find out more about how carbon filters are used to clean water: Information about GAC Filters.

Some ion exchange resin systems may be able to get rid of PFAS, but you should be careful to make sure that any system you choose meets the NSF/ANSI certification standards listed below.

If you want to get rid of PFAS in your home water, look for products that are certified to NSF/ANSI 53 (for filters) or NSF/ANSI 58. (reverse osmosis).

On the Home Water Treatment page, you can learn more about these treatment options, their pros and cons, and their general costs. A specialist in water treatment can help you figure out which option is best for your family.

In Minnesota, plumbing or water conditioning contractors who are licensed and bonded must install water treatment systems. However, homeowners can install equipment in their own homes that they live in. After the treatment system is set up, it’s important to keep up with the maintenance instructions given by the manufacturer.

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