Keen to know exactly what contaminants the Berkey can remove from your water – and which contaminants this popular filter can’t remove? We’ve got you covered in this guide.
📌 Key Takeaways
- The Black Berkey filters remove more than 200 common drinking water contaminants, including bacteria, chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, pesticides, PFAs & more.
- The Berkey filters can remove fluoride, BUT require a separate, additional filter to do so.
- The Berkey filters do not remove nitrates, calcium & magnesium
- Berkey is NOT certified by the NSF
Table of Contents
- 🧫 What Can The Berkey Filters Reduce in Water?
- 📤 How Does the Berkey Filter Reduce Harmful Contaminants?
- ❌ What CAN’T The Berkey Elements Remove?
- 🚰 Can Berkey Water Filter Elements Remove Fluoride?
- 🧪 Berkey Test Results
- 📜 Are Berkey Filters NSF Certified?
- 🆚 Berkey Vs Reverse Osmosis
- ❔ What Does Berkey Filter Out Of Water? FAQs
🧫 What Can The Berkey Filters Reduce in Water?
The Berkey water purifier elements can reduce a total of 203 contaminants. We’ve shared the most common groups of contaminants reduced by Berkey water filters below.
Heavy metals are known to have a number of health effects when consumed in excess in water, including reduced central nervous function, mental health effects, damage to the kidneys, liver, and other organs, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and increased risk of cancer.
In the heavy metals category, the Black Berkey elements can remove:
- 99% Aluminum
- 99.9% Antimony
- 80% Barium
- 99.7% Cadmium
- 99.9% Chromium
- 99.85% Chromium 6
- 99.9% Copper
- 99.9% Iron
- 99.9% Lead
- 99.9% Mercury
- 99.9% Nickel
- 99.9% Zinc
… and more.
Disinfection chemicals are added to city drinking water supplies to kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that may be present in the natural water source. These chemicals linger in water and are consumed in trace amounts. In these trace amounts, disinfection chemicals aren’t thought to have health effects, but they do give water an unpleasant chemical, or “swimming pool”, taste.
For disinfection chemicals, test results show that the Berkey elements can remove the following impurities:
- 99.9% Chlorine Residual (Total Residual Chlorine)
- 99.9% Free Chlorine
- 99.6% Chloride
Microorganisms like bacteria and viruses have the potential to make us sick when they’re consumed in drinking water. E. Coli, one of the most common waterborne microorganisms, has symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, fever, headaches, fatigue, and even death. Luckily, microorganisms are rarely present in city water due to disinfection, but they can often be found in well water.
Berkey removes an impressive range of microorganisms from drinking water, including:
- 99.9% Pathogenic bacteria
- 99.9% Viruses
Berkey claims that its filters have a “water purifier” effect due to their impressive microorganism removal. However, it doesn’t look like the Berkey water filters have been tested for cyst or protozoa removal, so we’ll assume that these contaminants aren’t removed by Berkey.
Pharmaceutical Drug Contaminants
Pharmaceutical drugs are classed by the Environmental Protection Agency as “emerging contaminants” since we’re only now learning more about their presence in our water supplies. Current large-scale water treatment methods can’t remove pharmaceuticals. In low doses, pharmaceuticals are unlikely to have any health effects. However, scientists don’t know much about the impact of chlorine low-level exposure to a mix of pharmaceutical drugs.
Berkey reduces up to 99.9% of the following pharmaceutical drug contaminants:
- Bisphenol A
Volatile Organic Compounds
Various volatile organic compounds are known to have a range of health risks, including reproductive problems, increased risk of cancer, liver and kidney problems, and stomach problems. VOCs are used industrially and often contaminate local groundwater supplies. They’re more likely to be found in well water than city water.
There are tens of VOCs that the Black Berkey filter element can reduce or remove to below lab detectable limits, including:
- 1,1-Dichloroethane (1,1-DCA)
- 3,5-Dichlorobenzoic Acid
- Halo acidic Acids (HAA5)
- Lindane (Gamma-BHC)
- Vinyl Chloride
… and more.
There are several other concerning contaminants that are commonly found in public and private drinking water supplies, including arsenic (known to cause cancer, heart disease, and nervous system effects), nitrites (associated with headaches, abdominal cramps, and increased heart rate), and TTHMs (known to increase the risk of bladder, colon, and rectal cancer).
Other notable contaminants removed by the Berkey filter elements are:
- 99.8% Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
- 99.9% Arsenic
- 99.9% Manganese
- 95% Nitrites
- 99.9% Petroleum products, like diesel, gasoline, and crude oil
- 99.9% Selenium
The Berkey fluoride water filter elements can remove:
- 99.7% Fluoride
- 99.7% Arsenic
Looking for the full list of contaminants removed by Berkey’s filters? Find this information in the table below.
|1,2-Dichloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethane (CFC 123a)||99.90%|
|Aroclor (1016, 1221, 1232, 1242, 1248, 1254, 1260)||99.90%|
|Dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC 12)||99.90%|
|Dieldrin Diethyl phthalate||99.90%|
|Ethylene Dibromide (EDB)||99.90%|
|Halo acidic Acids (HAA5)||99.90%|
|Methyl tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE)||99.90%|
|Trichlorofluoromethane (CFC 11)||99.90%|
📤 How Does the Berkey Filter Reduce Harmful Contaminants?
Now we know what types of contaminants are reduced by the Black Berkey filter elements, let’s look at how the Berkey water filtration process works.
Berkey’s filter elements are designed to fit in Berkey’s countertop filter systems, which use gravity to push water through the filter media and into a separate chamber.
You add water to the top chamber, then wait for the water to filter from the top chamber to the bottom chamber. It takes about 45 minutes for a set of new filters to filter a full batch of water. You can dispense water at any time from the bottom chamber (no need to wait for the chamber to fill first).
According to Berkey, the Black Berkey water filter elements use five other types of media and coconut carbon to treat water. What are the five media types? We don’t know, since Berkey has only disclosed one of them: ion exchange resin.
From this limited information, we can deduce that the Berkey water filters should be good at reducing pesticides, pesticides, and other impurities with health effects, based on a number of evaluative studies. Ion exchange media is often combined with carbon filtration in gravity-based water filtration systems to further reduce harmful contaminants.
📌 How is it that the Berkey filter can remove tiny contaminants like microorganisms? Because, according to Berkey, all the different media types are constructed into a “very fine matrix”, with millions of “micro-fine” pores. These pores are so tiny that they can trap harmful contaminants of all sizes, even the smallest pathogenic bacteria and viruses – which slip through the pores of most filter media.
Gravity filtration also plays a role in the effectiveness of the Berkey’s contaminant removal. In a gravity filter, water moves slowly through the system, and has more contact time with the media compared to a filter powered by the force of water pressure. This increased contact time allows for a more thorough contaminant removal.
❌ What CAN’T The Berkey Elements Remove?
📌 According to Berkey, the only contaminant that its filters CAN’T remove is nitrates (but they CAN remove nitrites). Nitrates are a type of molecule made from nitrogen and oxygen or ozone. They’re common in groundwater, and may occur in unnaturally high levels in areas with poor farming practices, such as the overuse of pesticides and herbicides and improper waste disposal.
High levels of nitrates (above 10 mg/L) are linked to a blood disorder called methemoglobinemia, and are especially dangerous to pregnant women. It’s worth testing your water for this contaminant before you buy a Berkey system if you have any reason to believe your region may be susceptible to nitrate contamination.
The Berkey water filter elements also don’t remove ionic minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals are beneficial to human health and give water a pleasant alkaline taste, so it’s a good thing that the Berkey systems retain them. Note, however, that if you have hard water, the Berkey won’t make a difference to your water hardness.
Are there any other contaminants that the Berkey water filters can’t remove? Certainly – there are hundreds upon hundreds of contaminants present in trace amounts in water, and even the very best filters can’t remove them all.
🚰 Can Berkey Water Filter Elements Remove Fluoride?
Yes, the Black Berkey water filter elements can remove fluoride – BUT you shouldn’t rely on them as a long-term fluoride removal solution.
📌 Based on our own independent testing, we WOULD NOT recommend using the Berkey fluoride filters. Our test results show that these elements add an unacceptable amount of Aluminum to the filtered water. Check out our test results here:
If you drink fluoridated water and you’d rather it be fluoride-free, consider a different filtration system that removes fluoride and other contaminants all with one filter.
🧪 Berkey Test Results
Berkey has obtained independent testing from several third-party organizations:
- Envirotek Laboratories, Inc., New Jersey
- LA County Environmental Toxicology Laboratory, California
- Analytical Services, Inc. (ASI)
Envirotek Laboratories tested the Berkey water filters for their ability to reduce chloramines, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and more.
The Environmental Toxicology Laboratory conducted several tests and provided data on the Berkey filter’s ability to reduce nitrates, arsenic, and methylene blue active substances (MBAS).
Analytical Services, Inc. tested the Berkey water filters for their ability to remove or inactivate viruses in water.
You can find links to all the Berkey test reports below:
- Berkey perflourinated chemicals test report
- Berkey chemical reduction test report
- Berkey uranium radiological test report
- Berkey organic test report
- Berkey inorganic test report
- Berkey gross alpha radiological test report
- Berkey gross beta radiological test report
- Berkey microbiological test report
There is some controversy online about the efficacy and conclusiveness of the testing Berkey has done. We are still investigating this and will update this article with our findings.
📜 Are Berkey Filters NSF Certified?
No, Berkey filters aren’t NSF certified for their performance or for any of the contaminants Berkey claims they can remove.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why there’s some controversy around Berkey filters, and why Berkey filters are banned in California and some other states.
As we shared above, Berkey has obtained independent test results for its filters’ contaminant removal abilities. But nothing is quite as reassuring as an official certification from the NSF/ANSI.
Why hasn’t Berkey taken the plunge and applied for an NSF certification?
We don’t know.
Berkey claims they would have to disclose their manufacturing secrets in order to be certified by the NSF, and that would mean letting competitors know exactly how to formulate such a thorough, long-lasting filter element.
Additionally, obtaining an NSF certification is expensive, and Berkey stated they want to avoid the fees associated with the testing and certification process.
Neither of these reasons are really sufficient explanations, and we think they may be trying to avoid the more rigorous testing required for an official certification.
We believe Berkey would have a much bigger customer base if it ended the controversy by getting officially certified by the NSF.
🆚 Berkey Vs Reverse Osmosis
If we’re to believe all of Berkey’s claims and third-party test results, the Black Berkey elements offer almost the same performance as a reverse osmosis system. There are, however, a few notable differences between the two:
- Performance. The Black Berkey elements filter water slowly through two or four filter cartridges, using gravity filtration. All the filter cartridges contain the same filter media – you can just choose to add more filters to speed up the process. RO filtration, on the other hand, uses water pressure to force water through several different filter stages, including a sediment pre-filter, a carbon filter, and a semi-permeable membrane.
- Contaminant removal. While a reverse osmosis system removes everything from water, Berkey retains beneficial minerals.
- Installation and maintenance. RO systems typically require more setup than countertop units like the Berkey system. Plus, the Berkey is low-cost to maintain because of its long-lasting filter elements, while RO systems have multiple filters that need changing once every 6 months to 2 years.
❔ What Does Berkey Filter Out Of Water? FAQs
Can you use Berkey water filter elements to treat well water?
Yes, Berkey water filter elements can be used to treat well water, since they reduce or remove all the contaminants commonly found in private wells, from pathogenic bacteria to nitrites and iron. Note that water with high hardness or sediment may need pre-treatment to prevent damage to, or early clogging of, the filters. Note also that Berkey filter elements don’t remove nitrates from drinking water.
What minerals does Berkey leave in water?
According to Berkey, the Black Berkey filter elements remove sedimentary minerals, like iron oxide, but retain ionic minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This means you can enjoy the same great-tasting, mineral-rich water that you had prior to filtration, but without the unnecessary or problematic minerals.
Do Berkey filters remove bacteria?
Yes, Berkey water filter elements have been tested to remove more than 99.9% of pathogenic bacteria. That means you can use a Berkey water filter system to treat microbiologically unsafe drinking water.
Does Berkey remove E. Coli?
Yes. According to Berkey, the Black Berkey water filters reduce up to 99.999% of E. Coli. That’s great news if you have a private well and want to protect your family from potential bacteria contamination, or you just want to make sure you’re prepared if your city is issued with a boil water notice.
Does Berkey remove pharmaceuticals?
Yes. Independent test results show that the Berkey water filter system can remove 99.5% of pharmaceuticals from drinking water. These include Acetaminophen, Carbamazepine, Progestrone, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen Sodium.
Does Berkey filter remove everything?
Yes, the Berkey water filter removes pretty much everything from water. Just keep in mind that Berkey isn’t quite a water purifier. Berkey water filters still retain beneficial minerals, like calcium and magnesium, and they’re not capable of reducing nitrates. Plus, you’ll need a separate Berkey fluoride water filter if you want to benefit from long-term fluoride reduction in your water.
Does a Berkey filter remove hormones?
According to Berkey’s third-party test results, the Black Berkey water filter can remove progesterone. However, there’s no mention that this filter can remove estrogen or testosterone from water.
Does Berkey water filter remove sodium?
No, Berkey filter systems don’t remove mineral salts that are considered beneficial to human health, and this includes sodium.
Does Berkey water filter remove chemicals?
Yes. The Berkey water filter elements reduce or remove tens of chemicals, including chlorine, chloramines, pesticides, herbicides, volatile organic compounds, a range of PFAS, and nitrites.
Does Berkey water filter remove lead?
Yes, the Berkey water filter elements can remove up to 99.9% of lead from drinking water, as well as other heavy metals like aluminum, chromium-6, iron, and zinc.