Are Plastic Water Filter Pitchers Ok to Use? - Center for Environmental Health (2023)

Oct 28, 2020Katie Gao, MPHFood, Home

Making sure your drinking water is healthy and safe

Water filter pitchers are a commonplace household item that almost everyone has. These handy devices magically turn our tap water into crisp, fresh mountain spring water. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it does make it taste better! Since many water filter pitchers are made from plastic, we decided to take a look at how healthy and safe they are when compared to alternatives such as tap water and bottled water. Let’s dive in!

(Video) The 6 Best Water Filter Pitchers of 2022- 10-Cup 5-Stage Water Filter.

First, to better understand the use and necessity of water filter pitchers, we need to understand their purpose. The main use for most at-home water filters is to change and enhance the taste, color, and smell of drinking water, thereby improving the water’s aesthetic effects (1, 2). The EPA has established both primary and secondary National Drinking Water Regulations meant to protect the public against consumption of drinking water contaminants that pose a risk to human health (2). Primary Standards are federally-enforced mandatory water quality standards, while Secondary Standards are non-mandatory water quality standards established as a guideline to assist public water systems in managing the aesthetic considerations for drinking water like taste, color, and odor (2). In some households, however, water filters are a necessity. Water from wells, older pipes, and other external factors can negatively impact water quality even with EPA regulations in place.

So, What Do Water Pitchers Filter Out?

When looking at different water filter pitchers, it is important to check their certifications. Certification is important because it shows the product has been verified by an independent third party to do what it says it does (3). Most commercial plastic water filter pitchers are certified by either the NSF/ANSI (National Sanitation Foundation/American National Standards Institute), the WQA (Water Quality Association), or both (4). However, even among certain certifications there are different standards they can be certified with. For example, water filters certified by NSF/ANSI can be either standard 42 or standard 53 (3, 5). NSF/ANSI standard 42 focuses on the aesthetic effects of drinking water treatment and establishes minimum requirements for systems designed to reduce non-health-related contaminants (5). NSF/ANSI standard 53 focuses on the health effects of drinking water treatment and establishes minimum requirements for systems designed to reduce specific health-related contaminants (5). NSF/ANSI standard 42 reduces contaminants like chlorine, taste and odor issues, chloramine, particulates, iron, manganese, zinc, and total dissolved solids (TDS) in drinking water, whereas NSF/ANSI standard 53 reduces contaminants like heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, and selenium), cryptosporidium, giardia, inorganic compounds, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in water (3, 5). Since PFOA/PFOS–fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals known as PFAS–are also a concern for people, the NSF has a P473 standard for that as well (19, 20, 21, 22).

Are Plastic Water Filter Pitchers Ok to Use? - Center for Environmental Health (1)Table created from information from [3], [5], and [21].

(Video) Removing Microplastics from Waters - Challenge Accepted | Katrin Schuhen | TEDxVienna

If you are looking for filters that can remove specific contaminants in your drinking water, make sure to check the product’s NSF/ANSI standard certification beforehand. While most water filter pitchers are able to remove contaminants that affect the taste of water like chlorine, zinc, and hydrogen sulfide, not all are able to filter out contaminants like heavy metals and VOCs (8). Because of this, it’s important to know what’s in your water. You can check your community water system quality reports at the EPA Federal Reports site here, which also shows you potential water system violations. If your drinking water contains serious contaminants like lead or other heavy metals, it’s advised to install a more comprehensive filtration system in your house or apartment (8).

Are Plastic Water Pitchers Bad?

Most water filter pitchers are made out of hard clear plastic, and popular brands advertise that their pitchers are BPA free. For example, according to Brita, their pitcher lids and filter housings are made out of polypropylene plastic, the reservoirs and pitchers are made from either NAS (a styrene based plastic) or SAN (styrene acrylonitrile), and all are tested by the NSF for material safety (12). However, there have been several studies that show that many hard clear plastics, including BPA replacements, do release estrogenic chemicals (23, 24, 25, 26). Plastics and endocrine disruption are still being studied, so erring on the side of safety, here are a couple of suggestions to help you properly take care of your water filter pitcher.

Tips for properly taking care of plastic water filters

  • Hand wash plastic components with a mild detergent and air dry upside down; make sure to not use any abrasive cleaners. Hand wash only, since the heat from dishwashers can stress the plastic over time.
  • Store filled pitchers in a cool, dim place away from sunlight to prevent algae formation. Both heat and UV light are shown to increase leaching from plastic, so it’s safer to store your pitcher in the refrigerator or away from windows.
  • If you go on vacation and water has been left in the pitcher for a long time, it’s a good idea to dump that water, give the pitcher a wash, and then refill it. Time of contact increases the potential of leaching from plastic, and standing water increases the risk of other contaminants building up.
  • Regularly replace filters for optimal performance depending on guidelines; most standard filters recommend replacement every 40 gallons, which is approximately every two months. Bacteria build up in the water filters themselves, so it is important to do this.

What If I Don’t Want a Plastic Pitcher?

If you would prefer to not use a plastic water pitcher, no worries! There are glass and steel pitchers as well, although options are limited. It should be noted that most water filters do contain some plastic, even if the pitchers themselves are a different material. There are also water filters that screw onto the tap and countertop water filters that attach to taps that have less plastic. If you want to ditch the plastic pitcher completely, you can invest in a whole house filter or an under-the-counter reverse osmosis system.

(Video) Tap Water vs Bottled Water: The Great Debate About Which One is the Best Choice

Sustainability of Single-Use Filters

Since water filters need to be replaced on a regular schedule, you might be wondering what to do with the filter itself, which is usually housed in plastic. Many water filter companies have recycling programs, so you can look to see if there is a recycling component for your used water filters. For example, Brita currently partners with TerraCycle to offer a free mail-in recycling program for Brita filters, pitchers, dispensers, bottles, faucet systems, and packaging (14).

Make sure to not throw the filter directly into your municipal recycling bin as it can contaminate the recycling stream. It is also not recommended to cut open the filter to separate the plastic from the filter media inside. While the filters are made out of less plastic than bottled water, they are not a plastic-free solution.

Other Alternatives?

Popular alternatives to filtered water include tap water and bottled water. The EPA has established protective drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants as part of its comprehensive Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), although there are still incidences where violations occur (16). Bottled water also presents various health hazards, so it should not be regarded as the de facto standard either. The plastic of bottled water is made from PET, a material regarded as safe for one-time use, but refilling bottles or storing them in hot places increases the risk of chemicals and microplastics leaching into the water (1, 17). The bottled water industry is also self-regulating and not always liable to FDA regulations, so there’s a greater chance of contamination occurring (1, 17). Recent tests have actually found PFAS and arsenic in bottled water for sale (27, 28). Bottled water also has a huge environmental impact, since 86% of all plastic water bottles end up in landfills rather than being recycled (18).

(Video) Do Water Filters Really Purify Your Water? | Talking Point | Full Episode

Final Take-Aways

Plastic water filters are helpful tools that allow individuals to enhance and improve the taste and smell of their drinking water, as well as remove potentially harmful chemical contaminants. While we work to create better water filtration systems within our communities, plastic water filters are a good alternative for people’s current drinking needs.


  23. Guart, Albert, et al. “Migration of plasticisers from Tritan™ and polycarbonate bottles and toxicological evaluation.” Food chemistry 141.1 (2013): 373-380.
  24. Yang, Chun Z., et al. “Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: a potential health problem that can be solved.” Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 989-996.
  25. Bittner, George D., Chun Z. Yang, and Matthew A. Stoner. “Estrogenic chemicals often leach from BPA-free plastic products that are replacements for BPA-containing polycarbonate products.” Environmental Health 13.1 (2014): 41.
  26. Bittner, George D., et al. “Chemicals having estrogenic activity can be released from some bisphenol a-free, hard and clear, thermoplastic resins.” Environmental Health 13.1 (2014): 103.

Tags: Drinking | Home | Lead | Plastic | Water | Water Filters

(Video) Danger in Your Drinking Water! Filtering PFAS, TTHM, BPS, Heavy Metals, and Plastics


Are Plastic Water Filter Pitchers Ok to Use? - Center for Environmental Health? ›

While we work to create better water filtration systems within our communities, plastic water filters are a good alternative for people's current drinking needs.

Is a plastic water pitcher safe? ›

Yes, water filter pitchers are safe – as long as you replace the filters as recommended by the manufacturer to prevent bacteria growth in the filter media. The safety of a filter pitcher depends on the quality of the product and your own quality of care.

Do plastic water pitchers release microplastics? ›

Surprisingly, one pitcher increased the number of microplastic particles per liter of water to 437.4 particles — a 1,206% increase.

Are plastic Brita pitchers safe? ›

Yes. All Brita® pitchers, dispensers, Premium Filtering Water Bottles, Water Filter Faucet Systems and replacement filters are made without BPA.

What is an environmentally friendly way to filter water? ›

Ceramic filters contain pores as small as 0.5 microns that catch debris as water passes through. These pores effectively reduce most bacteria, sediment, and turbidity in water. Ceramic filters are one of the best filtration options for the environment because they can be repeatedly washed and reused.

What is the safest material for a water pitcher? ›

Many plastics, and some metal, vessels contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began warning about in 2010 due to its correlation with cancer. Glass is the safest water bottle type because it's chemical-free, made from natural materials, and dishwasher safe.

Are Rubbermaid pitchers BPA free? ›

Rubbermaid Compact® pitchers are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.

What is the best water filter pitcher for microplastics? ›

LifeStraw Home Water Filter Pitcher

LifeStraw makes some of the most innovative and reputable water filters around, so it makes sense that their water filter pitcher also exceeds expectations. It's the only filter on the market that removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from tap water.

Do plastic water filters leach? ›

Tips for properly taking care of plastic water filters

Store filled pitchers in a cool, dim place away from sunlight to prevent algae formation. Both heat and UV light are shown to increase leaching from plastic, so it's safer to store your pitcher in the refrigerator or away from windows.

Are there any water filters that remove microplastics? ›

A Reverse Osmosis Filter has a pore size of approximately 0.0001 micron so it's, by far, best way to remove microplastics (or anything else) from your drinking water due to its ability to completely separate solids from water.

What is the healthiest way to filter water? ›

It is best to use a point-of-entry filter system (where your water pipe enters your house), or whole-house filter system, for VOCs because they provide safe water for bathing and cleaning, as well as for cooking and drinking. Activated carbon filters can remove some VOCs.

What is the cleanest way to filter water? ›

Reverse osmosis systems are best suited for domestic use and provide a highly efficient way to purify your drinking water at home. Increasingly, these systems are also used in hospitality environments to treat water made for coffee as they offer the finest level of filtration available.

What is the eco alternative to Brita? ›

1Binchotan Charcoal

Bichotan charcoal is essentially Mother Nature's version of the Brita filter. A stick of blackened carbon made from tree branches, usually oak, binchotan soaks up bacteria, absorbs smells, and releases minerals into the water.

Are glass water pitchers better than plastic? ›

Safety-wise, glass is definitely safer than plastic. In general, the non-porous surface of glass allows it to be non-absorbent of food odors, germs and stains. It even repels residual flavors & aroma from the last beverage! Now you won't have to worry about leaching chemicals.

What is the best material for pitchers? ›

So, if you plan on pouring boiling water into your pitcher or storing it in the freezer for chilling, go with borosilicate glass! You can also get a BPA-free plastic pitcher that's much lighter, won't break as easily, and is significantly cheaper.

Is a water filter pitcher better than bottled water? ›

Filter water vs. bottled water. Although both filtered water and bottled water can provide healthier, better-tasting water, the cost-effectiveness and smaller environmental impact of filtered water beats out bottled water at every turn.

Are old Tupperware pitchers safe? ›

With vintage Tupperware products, dangerous elements (read: potentially toxic chemicals) come into play. If your Tupperware is old enough, it might even leach harmful chemicals and heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and arsenic into stored food.

When did Rubbermaid stop using BPA? ›

Rubbermaid has a page on their website to help consumers identify which containers contain BPA. They are introducing a “BPA-free” logo on the bottom of new products that do not contain the chemical. The website claims all products made from January, 2010 onwards are BPA-free, and do not contain dioxins or phthalates.

Are Rubbermaid pitchers safe? ›

Rubbermaid Simply Pour pitchers are BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, and made in the USA.

Which water filter removes the most toxins? ›

The best water filtration system to remove arsenic from your drinking water is none other than a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtration system. Reverse Osmosis, also known as RO, is a process that uses pressure to force water through a special semi-permeable membrane to remove dissolved pollutants.

How long does it take to filter microplastics out of water? ›

The resulting filter was shown to be effective at very quickly removing microplastics from water – reportedly over 99.9% of the pollutants were removed within 10 seconds. The material can also be reused multiple times without reducing its performance.

What is the best water filter to remove hormones? ›

The Royal Berkey Water Filter is one of our best-sellers of the Berkey Water Filtration System. This can be used both inside the home or outdoors. With this gravity water filter, one is assured that his drinking water is free from hormones and other pharmaceutical contamination.

Are plastic water cooler jugs safe? ›

Plastic Toxins

Ingesting something stored in a plastic container is always risky. While drinking something acidic is more dangerous, you still always run the risk of ingesting toxins when you use plastic. This is a particular danger for older water bottles and water bottles that have been exposed to heat.

Are plastic gallon water jugs safe? ›

1) 5-gallon jugs are unsanitary.

Typically, the water bottles sit in a reservoir that is part of the dispenser. This spot is often forgotten about and never gets sanitized, promoting the growth of algae and mold. The result is usually a green, slimy fungus that ends up being ingested.

What is the safest plastic for drinking water? ›

When you do use plastics, look for these resin codes which are considered safer: #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 PP. Examples of #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) include: bottled milk, water and juice, yogurt cups, and some plastic bags.


1. Hopefully by watching this video you’ll learn something new..
(Mr ColitisCrohns)
2. Hidden facts about single-use plastic water bottles + EPIC water bottle filter unsponsored review
(2 Chicks Going Green)
4. 7 Steps To Surviving And Preventing Cancer - A MUST WATCH!
(The Biblical Nutritionist)
5. Microplastics - The Hidden Danger to Your Health -- Complete Episode
(Hacking the Truth)
6. Reusable water bottles have more bacteria than toilet seats: Study
(FOX 11 Los Angeles)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Corie Satterfield

Last Updated: 04/29/2023

Views: 6400

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Corie Satterfield

Birthday: 1992-08-19

Address: 850 Benjamin Bridge, Dickinsonchester, CO 68572-0542

Phone: +26813599986666

Job: Sales Manager

Hobby: Table tennis, Soapmaking, Flower arranging, amateur radio, Rock climbing, scrapbook, Horseback riding

Introduction: My name is Corie Satterfield, I am a fancy, perfect, spotless, quaint, fantastic, funny, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.