The Berkey Water Filter has come under criticism because or reports that the filter was not able to process as many gallons of water as advertised. Upon release of this news, proponents of NSF and ANSI poured out of the woodwork proclaiming, “AH HA, this is because the Berkey does not bear the NSF certifications”. “AH HA, this is what happens when you purchase a non-certified filter.” An article by Tim Heffernan of the New York Times Wirecutter media outlet documents this very line of thinking.
Before proceeding, I want you to remember that in spite of America’s so-called water experts, in 2021 alone, 65 million Americans drank poisoned water and over 1,400 municipalities failed to meet the EPA Safe Drinking Water standards.
It is no secret that I consider the NSF to be a buffoon farm. It is, to safe drinking water what Barney Fife is to law enforcement. I say this with 35 years years experience purifying water at the highest levels.
So that you know I am not simply calling names, I challenge you to find one single NSF certified water product that guarantees safe drinking water. In the Movie, Tommy Boy, Tommy tells his prospect, “if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will”. The NSF certification is likewise a guarantee of nothing.
Understand, I respect the exacting processes taken by NSF. As a man of science I have been immersed and respectful of ANSI standards my entire scientific life. However, it is not the substance of this testing I refute, but instead the careful, deceitful manipulation by NSF to persuade the public into believing that only NSF products are safe. Sadly for Berkey, NSF is now able to use this perception as a hammer against them. Let me also say that there are some very reputable companies with NSF certified filters worth buying, but it is because of the company and not the NSF seal.
The truth is that an NSF seal is not a guarantee of safety. All it takes to create a stir about any filter failure is the right person to do the right test and then spread word to the media. Let’s dissect why NSF certification has little value.
- The mainstay of home water filters is Granular Activated Carbon (GAC). It has a tremendous capacity to remove chlorine, the most complained about offensive smell. The chlorine capacity (amount of chlorine removed) of GAC has been known for decades. Next, the EPA puts a maximum concentration of chlorine in municipal water at 4 mg/l. Finally, by knowing these two pieces of information plus the amount of carbon included in a filter, even an imbecile could calculate how many gallons a water filter will process. While the NSF testing is very stringent, it is grade school science and the capacity of even a junk carbon filter is generally 5 – 10 times more than the “guarantee on the box”. This is a great money maker; Sell a filter capable of delivering 2,000 gallons, promise 400, put the NSF label on the box, and you’re in business.
- However, somewhere in our recent future consumers became alerted to other poisons being found in their water. Metals such as chromium, lead, arsenic, mercury and others created justifiable worry, and also more importantly for this article, an opportunity for filter manufacturers to start adding new media to their filters, and of course charging more money. These new filters come with the promise of protection against bad players, but still, not one of them will guarantee safe drinking water.
- Brita was the first major player to add metals removal capability. They add 50% Weak Base Anion resin (WBA) to their GAC. WBA has the ability to remove harmful metals while leaving hardness and the pH unaffected. Zero Water stepped up the game by adding several other media to their filters. Mixed Bed Resin removes all ions and produces zero TDS, which is really not any healthier than any other water, and often leaves a harmless fishy odor. Titanium dioxide is a wonder media that most notably removes arsenic. With the discovery of PFAS and microplastic contaminants some filters are now including a micro filter membrane, or ceramic matrix. Still, none carry the guarantee of safe drinking water.
SO HOW DO THINGS LIKE THIS HAPPEN?
They happen because organizations like NSF are populated with egghead satchel-asses who are lab rats, and not water experts. They create tests not with tap water specimens from around the nation, but instead from random solutions they create called “challenge solutions”. As long as your particular water falls into the realm of their challenge solutions, these water gurus figure that you will be fine.
Unfortunately, water specimens across the nation differ greatly. They have varying TDS, alkalinity, pH, turbidity, organic contaminants, metals, bacteria, algae, fungi, sediment, and on and on it goes. Nothing NSF does accounts for this, and many NSF products carry the fine print warning that different conditions can produce different results.
The problem is that the American public is horribly under-educated and misinformed when it comes to water. The problem is that instead of leaders providing this education we are left in the lap of a self-serving, for-profit NSF organization that feeds itself charging costly testing and certification fees for products that do not guarantee safe drinking water.