Berkey water filters are some of the most popular countertop filters in the US. If you’ve done even the slightest bit of research into filtration systems in the US, it’s likely that you will have come across the Big Berkey at the very least.
The Big Berkey system uses black Berkey filter elements to remove more than 200 contaminants from drinking water, and the system couldn’t be simpler to use – you just set it up on a countertop, add water, and wait for it to filter in no time at all.
But if you live in California and you’ve tried to get your hands on a Berkey water filter, you’ve probably come across a major stumbling block: they’re banned according to state regulations.
Way back in 2009, a new law went into effect in California, known as “AB 1953, SB 1395 & HSC Section 116875“. More commonly referred to as the “no-lead law”, this law, which is now not so new, prevents the majority of available Berkey water filters, systems and products from being legally sold in the state of California.
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⚖️ What Does the Law Entail?
According to this law, any “end-use device intended to convey or dispense water for human consumption through drinking or cooking,” along with any individual parts that make up this type of device, may not be sold in the state of California until it is third-party certified by an ANSI/NSF-approved, independent company to confirm that it is “lead-free”.
The law applies to water purification systems and water filtration products of all kinds, including their replacement parts, and even those that don’t contain any metal alloys.
Even if a system claims to remove lead, or claims to be free of this contaminant, as the Berkey products are, it has to be certified by a third-party ANSI/NSF-approved organization to NSF/ ANSI 61 to be sold in the state of California.
🔏 Why Won’t Berkey Get a Certification?
So, why doesn’t Berkey just undergo independent third party testing to get its water filters and replacement parts NSF/ANSI certified and make its products available to customers in the state of California?
The answer is simple: Berkey doesn’t want to share its manufacturing secrets.
With Berkey water filters being some of the best available on the market, the Berkey brand has a lot going for it.
No other water filtration company has been able to replicate filter elements as thorough and durable as Berkey’s Black Berkey elements. And if this was ever to happen, Berkey would have a major competitor – which may massively affect the brand’s sales.
According to one Berkey distributor, as part of the regulations, manufacturers of water purification or filtration devices would have to reveal “proprietary information” relating to their systems, including information about their manufacturing processes, sales and suppliers.
Though the state of California guarantees that this information will be kept confidential, it’s a risk that Berkey doesn’t want to take.
So, we can see that Berkey isn’t refusing to get third party certification because its countertop filtration systems secretly do contain lead, as some conspiracy theories suggest.
It’s simply that Berkey wants to protect its industry secrets and remain completely unique in the gravity filter market, even at the expense of being unable to make Berkey products available to customers in the state of California.
💡 How to Get a Berkey in California?
All is not lost, however! If you live in California and you’re keen to get your hands on a Berkey product, you can do so – you’ll just be limited in choice.
As per California’s laws, Berkey can legally make sales of the following:
The reason why the state of California can make the exception for these Berkey filter systems is that since the initial law was put in place, California has now more specifically defined the requirements that pertain to the law.
The people at Berkey have done some research and confirmed that both the Travel Berkey and the Berkey light don’t fall into the scope of these particular regulations, which means they’re free to be available to customers in the state of California without requiring lead-free certification.
If you’re keen to understand exactly why this is, according to the Berkey website, California doesn’t prohibit the sale of “outdoor drinking water purification systems”.
This means that, while you can’t buy an indoor Berkey system, because the Berkey Light and the Travel Berkey filters are classed as “outdoor filters”, these products are legally available to customers in California.
🏷️ What to Know About Berkey’s California-friendly Systems
You’ll be happy to know that the Berkey Light and the Travel Berkey systems, despite not needing the lead-free certification as per California’s regulations, are essentially the same as the standard Berkey water filter systems. Here’s a bit of information about each of them.
The Berkey Light is currently Berkey’s portable, lightweight outdoor drinking water filtration option. It’s made from BPA-free plastic, and comes with 2 of Berkey’s filter elements. At a slightly lower cost than other Berkey water filter systems, this system is one of the best for small budgets – and there are no regulations here that technically say you have to use it outside. It comes in a variety of standard sizes and can reduce a whole host of contaminants, including pathogenic bacteria. You can use it with well and city water.
The Travel Berkey, is a slightly more robust, heavyweight outdoor water filter system that’s made from stainless steel. This product is a little higher in cost, and has a holding capacity of 5.7 liters. Again, the Travel Berkey can filter both well and city water, and works to free water of everything from chlorine to lead and pathogenic bacteria.
Here is the full list of contaminants removed by the Black Berkey filtration elements:
|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 to Get Berkey Water Filters in California
What if you specifically have your eye on an indoor Berkey system, though? Is there any way to get around the California state law and ship any Berkey filter to your home?
Not quite. Berkey recommends getting a friend who lives outside of California to buy the system for you and arrange to ship it to their home. You’ll then need to get the Berkey filter California shipped on to you, either by post or in person, by your friend. This method, according to Berkey, is “permissible”.
What happens if you need replacement parts for these systems?
Again, you’d have to order them through an out-of-state friend. Replacement filters are not a problem, as all Berkey systems contain the same purification elements, whether they’re classed as indoor or outdoor systems under the state’s regulations.
There’s no getting past the fact that according to California’s state regulations, Berkey needs a lead-free certification to make sales from its indoor systems in California.
10 years after the Berkey water filter California ban was first put in place, it’s clear that not much has changed over time, and it’s unlikely that it will any time soon.
Unless any new regulations are put in place, or California’s current regulations are amended, manufacturers like Berkey will continue to need third-party testing on all the systems they plan to sell in California.
It’s unlikely that Berkey will step back and agree to give up its industry secrets any time soon, so you may as well accept that to get your hands on the Big Berkey or another available standard indoor Berkey product, you’ll need to be clever about it.
Getting it shipped to your own home would technically be considered breaking the law, so find a willing friend living beyond California if you want to get around the state regulations.