Filter jugs: a health hazard?

In 2010, 1 million filter jugs were sold. Real social phenomenon, many families in France who have opted for this solution that can filter the tap water. About 20% of households are currently equipped. The German brand, Brita, is the undisputed leader with 90% market share in the sector.

The success of these carafes is due to several factors:

1) Marketing

According to the union that defends the bottling industry, Brita would devote 10% of its turnover to marketing, which is huge. The brand does not hide the fact that it places a lot of importance on advertising in order to be better known to consumers and better showcase its products.

2) “Assets” put forward

The filter jug ​​is “more convenient” according to the brand because it is no longer necessary to transport water bottles, it is more “economical” because the price per liter is greatly reduced and ultimately more ecological because the production of waste is less.

However, we must know how to qualify these assets. Indeed, the tap water is even more convenient because it is available immediately (a few minutes of waiting are necessary for the water to be filtered by a carafe). The tap water is even more economical because a carafe costs on average from 20 € to 50 € and the cartridges, to change every month, on average 7 €. Tap water is of course also more environmentally friendly because it is devoid of any disposable “packaging” (see cartridges that are thrown away every month).

The main selling point is their ability to filter water to make it “better”. And it is on this point that the shoe pinches.

The member for Alpes-Maritimes, Mrs. Marland-Militello, asked the Minister of Health and Sports that a survey on filter jugs be conducted. We read in Roselyne Bachelot’s answer that “the use of filter decanters is not currently recommended by the ministry in charge of health, the water of the public network must already comply with quality requirements. regulations “. We also read, not without a certain surprise, that “release of toxic or undesirable substances in the water consumed [from filter jugs] are possible” during intensive use or when the cartridges are not changed in time .

For its part, Nathalie Davoisne, from CI EAU (Water Information Center) says “prefer filtered water to tap water, it is above all a matter of taste. Filtering does not improve the quality of tap water, this water is subject to multiple controls and is perfectly drinkable. But if you choose to buy a carafe Brita you must absolutely think about changing the filters, otherwise there may be a health risk.

What is it really?

The consumer association Que Choisir did a study on 7 new filter jugs in the laboratory and also studied those used every day in about 30 families. The editor-in-chief of the association, Jean-Paul Geai, brought the conclusions at the beginning of May 2010 to France-Info.

Laboratory results:

  • The elimination of the taste of chlorine is real. However you should know that you will have the same result, and it completely free, leaving for one hour a jug of water in the refrigerator.
  • 6 carafes out of 7 have a “certain efficiency” to reduce the lead contents (to less than 10 micrograms per liter), when they are new. According to Jean-Paul Geai, these results must be put into perspective because lead pipes are becoming increasingly rare. In 2013, a standard stipulates that the lead level be below 10 μg / L of water.
  • Carafes are, however, totally ineffective in removing nitrates.
  • “The effectiveness of filter decanters is very average” to eliminate pesticides (here glyphosate has been sought because it is one of the most used pesticides).
  • The carafes all boast of reducing limescale. Mr. Geai says that “the reduction of limestone is real but modest” . On the other hand, he adds that what carafes call limestone is actually calcium, an essential element for the proper functioning of the human body. Studies estimate that the water we drink represents 20% of calcium intake per day. It is therefore totally ridiculous to want to remove it from the water.
  • Cartridges that also use silver salts for filtration release them into the water. According to What to choose even if “the doses are low” why should we find after filtration when initially this metal is not present in the tap water?

Results in individuals:

The association warns us that “there is the disaster” and says that “the analysis of the water filtered by these decanters in thirty families gives worse results than tap water before filtration”. Lead, nitrates, limestone, pesticides, micro-organisms, the release of silver, are all found in larger proportions. “In the end the results are disastrous for the filtered water” concludes Que Choisir.

There are several reasons for this. It is necessary to handle the decanter with great care (hand hygiene, etc.) otherwise the microbes can considerably multiply (especially in the ambient air). It must also be very rigorous with the replacement of cartridges which can, after a while, become tedious and expensive or simply be forgotten.

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