Do Berkey Filters Remove Lead?

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Berkey filters are advertised to remove a pretty impressive range of contaminants – but does that include lead?

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Yes, Berkey filter elements remove lead.
  • Test results from a third party (on Berkey’s behalf) show that Berkey filters remove up to 99.9% of lead from drinking water
  • The Black Berkey Filter and the Berkey Sport Filter are the two Berkey filters that can remove lead from drinking water.
  • Berkey’s filtration process includes coconut shell carbon filters, which remove harmful contaminants including lead, with adsorption.
  • Other heavy metals removed by Berkey filters include barium, iron, and mercury.

πŸ§ͺ Do Berkey Filters Remove Lead? Test Results

According to independent testing, the Black Berkey purification elements (which fit in the majority of the Berkey countertop filter systems) remove lead.

Test results show that the Black Berkey filters remove up to 99.9% of lead from contaminated water.

That means you should be protected from lead contamination if you use the Berkey water filters to filter the water in your home – even if your water is heavily laced with lead.

Just make sure to clean and replace your filters as recommended by Berkey to ensure consistent lead removal.

Unboxing new black berkey filter elements

πŸ“€ Which Berkey Filters Remove Lead?

Berkey offers a range of three filters: the Black Berkey Filter; the Fluoride Reduction Filter, and the Sport Filter.

  • The Black Berkey Filter is the most popular Berkey product, since it fits most Berkey countertop gravity filtration systems. This filter can remove up to 99.9% of lead from drinking water, according to the test results.
  • The Fluoride Reduction Filter is an optional add-on to the Black Berkey elements and focuses on fluoride and arsenic reduction. No additional lead removal from this filter (and none needed if you’re already using the Black Berkey filter elements).
  • The Sport Filter fits the Berkey Sport bottle and uses a filtration technology known as ionic absorption microfiltration. This filter removes up to 99.9% of lead according to independent test results.

πŸ“– How do Berkey Filters Remove Lead?

Let’s take a look at exactly how the Berkey filter is designed, and how it reduces lead and other contaminants in water.

Berkey is pretty secretive about the exact filter media in the Black Berkey elements (probably in a bid to prevent competitors from making similar elements).

What we do know is that the filters use a carbon composite that combines a proprietary 5-blend media with high-grade coconut shell carbon. Coconut shell carbon is a popular filter media. As for the other five media types in the Black Berkey water filters, we only know one of them: an ion exchange resin.

πŸ“Œ Coconut shell carbon is a popular choice for lead removal. According to a study, coconut shell carbon has adsorptive capacity of about 30 mg/g, and successfully removes lead from “aqueous effluents”. What does this mean in layman’s terms? You can generally rely on this type of filter for lead reduction.

Activated Carbon

Ion exchange, the other disclosed media type in the Berkey filters, removes negative ions – so it doesn’t usually target heavy metals like lead.

We don’t know this for sure, but we think it’s likely that one or several of the other undisclosed filter media also offer lead reduction, helping to bring the total reduction up to 99.9%.

Berkey’s countertop filters use gravity filtration. This is good news when it comes to activated carbon filtration, since a slow flow through the filter increases the contact time and allows for a more thorough adsorption process, removing more contaminants (including lead) during filtration.

Berkey filters in top water chamber

❌ Does Berkey Water Filter Remove Heavy Metals?

We know now that the Berkey water filter removes iron – but what about other heavy metals?

Alongside lead, Berkey also removes up to 99.9% of the following heavy metals:

  • Aluminum
  • Antimony
  • Barium
  • Beryllium
  • Bismuth
  • Cadmium
  • Cobalt
  • Chromium
  • Chromium 6
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Mercury
  • Molybdenum
  • Nickel
  • Vanadium
  • Zinc

Here is a chart showing all the contaminants and percentages removed by Black Berkey elements:

ContaminantReduction Rate
1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane99.90%
1,1,1-Trichloroethane (TCA)99.90%
1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane99.90%
1,1,2-Trichloroethane99.90%
1,1,2-Trichlorotrifluoroethane99.90%
1,1-Dichloroethane (1,1-DCA)99.90%
1,1-Dichloroethylene (1,1-DCE)99.90%
1,1-Dichloropropene99.90%
1,2,3-Trichlorobenzene99.90%
1,2,3-Trichloropropane99.90%
1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene99.90%
1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene99.90%
1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP)99.90%
1,2-Dibromoethane99.90%
1,2-Dichloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethane (CFC 123a)99.90%
1,2-Dichlorobenzene99.90%
1,2-Dichlorobenzene-d499.90%
1,2-Dichloroethane99.90%
1,2-Dichloropropane99.90%
1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene99.90%
1,3-Dichlorobenzene99.90%
1,3-Dichloropropene99.90%
1,4-Dichlorobenzene99.90%
2,2-Dichloropropane99.90%
2,4,5-T99.90%
2,4,5-TP (Silvex)99.90%
2,4-D99.90%
2,4-DB99.90%
2-Butanone (MEK)99.90%
2-Chlorotoluene99.90%
2-Hexanone99.90%
2-Methyl-2-propanol99.90%
3,5-Dichlorobenzoic Acid99.90%
3-Hydroxycarbofuran99.90%
4b 3-DDT99.90%
4b2-DDD499.90%
4b2-DDE99.90%
4-Bromofluorobenzene99.90%
4-Chlorotoluene99.90%
4-Isopropyltoluene99.90%
4-Methyl-2-pentanone99.90%
4-Nitrophenol499.90%
4-para-Nonylphenol99.90%
4-tert-Octylphenol99.90%
5-Hydroxydicamba99.90%
Acenaphthylene99.90%
Acetaminophen99.90%
Acetone99.90%
Acifluorfen99.90%
Alachlor99.90%
Aldicarb99.90%
Aldicarb Sulfone99.90%
Aldicarb Sulfoxide99.90%
Aldrin99.90%
alpha-Chlorodane99.90%
Aluminum99.00%
Ametryn99.90%
Anthracene99.90%
Antimony99.90%
Aroclor (1016, 1221, 1232, 1242, 1248, 1254, 1260)99.90%
Arsenic99.90%
Atraton99.90%
Atrazine99.90%
Barium80.00%
Baygon99.90%
Bentazon99.90%
Benzene99.90%
Beryllium99.90%
Bismuth99.90%
BisphenolA99.90%
Bromacil99.90%
Bromoacetic Acid99.90%
Bromobenzene99.90%
Bromochloromethane99.90%
Bromodichloromethane99.80%
Bromoform99.80%
Bromomethane99.90%
Butachlor99.90%
Butylate99.90%
Butylbenzylphthalate99.90%
Cadmium99.70%
Caffeine99.90%
Carbamazepine99.90%
Carbaryl99.90%
Carbofuran99.90%
Carbon Tetrachloride99.90%
Carboxin99.90%
Chloramben99.90%
Chloramines99.90%
Chlordane99.90%
Chloride99.60%
ChlorineResidual(TotalResidualChlorine)99.90%
Chloroacetic Acid99.90%
Chlorobenzene99.90%
Chlorobenzilate99.90%
Chloroethane99.90%
Chloroform99.80%
Chloromethane99.90%
Chlorpropham99.90%
Chlorprophane99.90%
Chromium99.90%
Chromium699.85%
CiprofloxacinHCl99.90%
cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene99.90%
cis-1,3-Dichloropropene99.90%
cis-Nonachlor99.90%
Cobalt95.00%
Copper99.90%
Cycloate99.90%
Dacthal Acid99.90%
Dalapon99.90%
Diazinona99.90%
Dibromoacetic Acid99.90%
Dibromochloromethane99.80%
Dibromochloropropane (DBCP)99.90%
Dibromomethane99.90%
Dicamba99.90%
Dichloroacetic Acid99.90%
Dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC 12)99.90%
Dichloromethane99.90%
Dichlorvos99.90%
DiclofenacSodium99.90%
Diclorprop99.90%
Dieldrin Diethyl phthalate99.90%
Dinoseb99.90%
Diphenamid99.90%
Disulfoton99.90%
Endrin99.90%
EPTC99.90%
ErythromycinUSP99.90%
Ethoprop99.90%
Ethylbenzene99.90%
Ethylene Dibromide (EDB)99.90%
Fenamiphos99.90%
Fenarimol99.90%
Fluorene99.90%
Fluorobenzene99.90%
Fluridone99.90%
FreeChlorineΒ 99.90%
gamma-Chlorodane99.90%
Gemfibrozil99.90%
Glyphosate99.90%
Halo acidic Acids (HAA5)99.90%
Heptachlor99.90%
Heptachlor Epoxide99.90%
Hexachlorobenzene99.90%
Hexachlorobutadiene (CCC)99.90%
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene99.90%
HexazinoneIsophorone99.90%
Ibuprofen99.90%
Iron99.90%
Isopropylbenzene (Cumene)99.90%
Lead99.90%
Lindane (Gamma-BHC)99.90%
Manganese99.90%
MBAS96.67%
Mercury99.90%
Merphos99.90%
Methiocarb99.90%
Methomyl99.90%
Methoxychlor99.90%
Methyl Paraoxon99.90%
Methyl tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE)99.90%
Methylcyclohexane-methane99.90%
Metolachlor99.90%
Metribuzin99.90%
Mevinphos99.90%
MGK 26499.90%
Molinate99.90%
Molybdenum90.00%
Monochlorobenzene99.90%
m-Xylenes99.90%
Naphthalene99.90%
Napropamide99.90%
NaproxenSodium99.90%
n-Butylbenzene99.90%
Nickel99.90%
Nitrites95.00%
Norflurazon99.90%
n-Propylbenzene99.90%
Oxamyl99.90%
o-Xylene99.90%
PCBs99.90%
Pebulate99.90%
Pentachlorophenol99.90%
PetroleumProducts99.90%
Picloram.99.90%
Primidone99.90%
Progesterone99.90%
Prometon99.90%
Prometryn99.90%
Pronamidea99.90%
Propazine99.90%
p-Xylenes99.90%
sec-Butylbenzene99.90%
Selenium99.90%
Simazine99.90%
Simetryn99.90%
Stirofos99.90%
Styrene99.90%
Sulfamethoxazole99.90%
Sulfone99.90%
Sulfoxidea99.90%
Tebuthiuron99.90%
Terbacil99.90%
Terbufos99.90%
Terbutryn99.90%
tert-Butylbenzene99.90%
Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)99.90%
Tetrahydrofuran (THF)99.90%
Thallium99.50%
Thiobencarb99.90%
Toluene99.90%
Toxaphene99.90%
trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene99.90%
trans-1,3-Dichloropropene99.90%
trans-Nonachlor99.90%
Triademefon99.90%
Tribromoacetic Acid99.90%
Trichloroacetic Acid99.90%
Trichloroethene (TCE)99.90%
Trichloroethylene99.90%
Trichlorofluoromethane (CFC 11)99.90%
Triclosan99.90%
Tricyclazole99.90%
Trifluralin99.90%
Trimethoprim99.90%
Vanadium87.50%
Vernolate99.90%
Vinyl Chloride99.90%
Zinc99.90%
Fluoride99.90%

Not all heavy metals are as dangerous as one another. Many metals, like iron and copper, are needed in small amounts in the human body. Other, like mercury and chromium, are dangerous even in low levels (like lead).

πŸ”Ž Which Types of Filters Are Best for Lead Reduction?

Now you know that Berkey filters remove lead – but that’s not to say that Berkey is the only brand offering lead reduction.

Some of the best types of filters for lead reduction are:

  • Reverse osmosis – The reverse osmosis process removes almost 100% of lead and many other drinking water contaminants. However, an RO water system is more expensive to maintain than any Berkey countertop water system due to the multiple filters and water waste involved in the filtration process.
  • Ceramic filters – Active ceramic filters are highly capable of removing lead, as well as most other heavy metals (including arsenic, barium, selenium, and mercury). These filters have long lifespans and can often be washed and reused. You can usually find ceramic filters in countertop filtration units.
  • Some carbon filters – Certain carbon filters, including coconut shell activated carbon (as used by Berkey), have shown to be good at reducing lead. These may be combined with other media, such as KDF, to increase their filtration abilities. Carbon filters are found in whole-home filtration systems, under-sink and countertop drinking water units, and in gravity filter pitchers.
  • KDF media – Both KDF-55 and KDF-85 media remove up to 99% of water soluble lead. These filter media also remove other heavy metals, like chromium, nickel, and mercury. You can find KDF media in countertop units and pitcher filters.

πŸ’‘ If you’re unsure whether a certain filter removes lead, look for test results online. Official NSF certification is best, but it’s also useful if the brand has had third-party testing to NSF Standards. If you can’t find test results, contact the manufacturer and ask for a contaminant removal datasheet.

Filling the big berkey with water

Looking for more options? Check out the Most-Effective Lead Removal Systems of 2023 πŸ‘ˆ

⚠️ How Else You Can Reduce Your Lead Exposure

It’s great if you’re considering using a water filter to reduce your lead exposure in pipes. But what else can you do to avoid being exposed to this metal at home?

  • Fix chipped or peeling paint. Old homes often have layers of paint on the walls, and the first few coats might have contained lead. If the paint is in a bad condition, it may release lead dust into the air.
  • Avoid tracking lead into your home. Lead is also present in some playground paints and is naturally present in soils. Wash your hands before you come inside and leave your shoes in the porch or by the door to minimize the lead that enters your home.
  • Run your water for one minute. If you have to use unfiltered water for cooking or drinking, run your faucet for one minute to get rid of any initial lead accumulation in water that was sitting in your pipes.
  • Consider replacing your plumbing. If you have lead pipes in your home, consider switching your pipes to a lead-free alternative. Only homes built before 1986 are at risk of having lead water pipes. Replacing your plumbing is expensive but should greatly reduce your lead exposure.

❔ Do Berkey Filters Remove Lead? FAQ

How does lead end up in my water?

Lead is found naturally in solid and rocks, but it’s usually reduced in water during treatment at your local treatment plant. The most common way for lead to enter water is after treatment, when water flows through lead service lines to our homes.

Lead pipes are now banned in the US, but this ban doesn’t apply to existing pipes. Thousands of homes in the US are still supplied by pipes made from, or coated with, lead, which leach this dangerous metal into water.

What’s so bad about lead anyway?

Lead is a toxic metal with several known health risks. When consumed in drinking water, lead may cause high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, weight loss, abdominal pain, learning difficulties, headaches, numbness and pain, memory loss, and fatigue. Lead is particularly dangerous to children and pregnant women.

Because lead builds up in the body over time, lead poisoning is a potential outcome of consuming even low lead concentrations in your drinking water supply.

Is lead regulated in America?

Yes, lead is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that any drinking water facility that supplies public water must adhere to the EPA’s regulations for lead as a legal requirement.

The EPA has set a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal of zero, meaning that no amount of lead is safe in water – no matter how small. This is in recognition of lead’s harmful health effects.

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