We’ve recommended Berkey’s add-on fluoride filters in the past, but we no longer do. Find out why in this article.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Our testing found that these filters introduce unacceptable amounts of aluminum into the filtered water.
- A water filter should only remove contaminants – it should never add substances into water, especially not potentially harmful ones.
- We recommend the Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher, the Epic Pure Water Dispenser, and the AquaTru Countertop RO Filter as alternatives to Berkey’s fluoride filters.
Table of Contents
- 🤔 What Are The Berkey PF2 Fluoride Filters?
- 🚫 Why Shouldn’t You Buy Berkey Fluoride Filters?
- ⚠️ What Are The Dangers Of Aluminum In Water?
- 🔎 Why Do Berkey Fluoride Filters Add Aluminum To Water?
- 🔄 Aluminum Oxide Vs Aluminum: A Laboratory’s Clarification
- 📑 Alternatives To Berkey Fluoride Filters
- 📝 Final Thoughts
- ❔ Why You Shouldn’t Use the Berkey PF2 Fluoride Filters: FAQ
🤔 What Are The Berkey PF2 Fluoride Filters?
Let’s start with a quick overview of Berkey’s PF2 Fluoride Filters.
The Countertop Berkey System is designed to house a number of Berkey filters. The main filter, which must be present in pairs inside the system, is the Black Berkey filter element. This is a carbon-based filter that adsorbs a range of contaminants in its filter media.
But there’s another optional filter that traps fluoride and all the arsenic oxide anions – contaminants that are difficult to remove with carbon filtration alone: the Berkey fluoride water filter.
This activated alumina filter is indeed somewhat effective at reducing fluoride in water. In our testing, the filter reduced our water’s fluoride concentration from 0.2 to 0.1 PPM (parts per million). No comment on the filter’s arsenic reduction abilities as our drinking water sample didn’t contain arsenic.
The fluoride and arsenic filter elements are added extras, meaning that nobody needs to buy them, but if you have arsenic – common in well water supplies – or fluoride – common in fluoridated municipal water supplies – you’d need the additional filters if you wanted to remove them.
The filters come in packs of two, and they’re not cheap – they currently cost around $80.
🚫 Why Shouldn’t You Buy Berkey Fluoride Filters?
👨🔬 We strongly recommend AGAINST buying Berkey’s PF 2 Fluoride filters because our private testing found that the filters add a high amount of aluminum into water.
We tested our water before and after filtering it with the Berkey system, including the Berkey PF 2 Fluoride filters.
The pre-filtration test detected no aluminum (0 PPM) in our tap water sample. The post-filtration test detected 1.44 PPM of aluminum.
That’s not just a bit of aluminum – it’s significantly higher than the EPA’s Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level for this impurity, which is 0.05–0.2 milligrams per liter (mg/L).
You can view our test results here:
⚠️ What Are The Dangers Of Aluminum In Water?
Aluminum in drinking water has a few potential health effects.
If you’re exposed to high levels of aluminum in your tap water over an extended period of time, you may experience the following health problems:
- Worsened nervous system performance
- Immune system effects
- Poor thyroid health
- Toxicity to the blood system
- Effects on developmental growth in children
- Cardiovascular health issues
💡 Thankfully, you’re unlikely to experience any of these effects from temporarily increasing your aluminum exposure due to using the Berkey PF 2 filters.
🔎 Why Do Berkey Fluoride Filters Add Aluminum To Water?
According to Berkey, its PF 2 filters use an aluminum oxide media. This compound of oxygen and aluminum is – also according to Berkey – natural and non-toxic.
Berkey also says that aluminum oxide is the most stable form of aluminum, and isn’t water-soluble. That means the aluminum oxide in the media shouldn’t get into the treated water – and yet it appears to be doing just that.
We know that leaching from aluminum oxide media is more likely in water with a high pH, but our own water sample had a neutral range of just 7.5. So, it doesn’t explain the amount of leaching we experienced, which shouldn’t happen.
👨🔬 Based on our findings, it seems that the aluminum oxide in the PF 2 Fluoride Filters is the cause of the aluminum detected in our water sample.
🔄 Aluminum Oxide Vs Aluminum: A Laboratory’s Clarification
Jumping back to Berkey’s claims that its fluoride filters don’t add aluminum to water because they’re made from aluminum oxide (which Berkey says is “vastly different” to the element aluminum), it’s important to clarify the difference between the two. This is especially helpful to know in light of Berkey’s statement that this presence of aluminum oxide is the reason that at-home tests show an aluminum presence – not because the filters actually add dangerous aluminum to water.
We spoke to SimpleLab, the laboratory that we used to test our Berkey filtered water for fluoride, and they helped us to get to the bottom of this.
SimpleLab says that “alumina” is another name for a solid compound of aluminum and oxygen called aluminum oxide.
The lab goes on to clarify that aluminum is toxic regardless of the compound it is contained in, and bioavailability is the key difference between the various aluminum compounds. Generally, the more soluble an aluminum compound, the more bioavailable it is. Alumina is considered minimally bioavailable because it’s quite insoluble in water.
Importantly, SimpleLab also says that aluminum’s journey through the acidic stomach and then the intestines likely changes its form, regardless of its original form when consumed.
The lab referenced research that tried to measure the absorption of different aluminum compounds in lab animals and humans, which generally shows that “all aluminum compounds are absorbed to some degree, that soluble compounds are absorbed to a higher degree, and that consuming certain foods with the aluminum increases its bioavailability regardless of the initial form”. What does that mean? The bioavailability of the aluminum is impacted by the food in your stomach. We can’t clarify for certain that an aluminum compound is inert because it’s initially in a solid form.
In conclusion, SimpleLab says that it’s “possible and plausible” that the aluminum measured in a test sample includes a contribution from aluminum oxide, aka alumina. So, to clarify, Berkey isn’t incorrect in saying that some water tests may detect aluminum due to the presence of aluminum oxide.
But the laboratory adds that calling aluminum oxide inert is not fully accurate, especially when we consider that health-based guidelines for aluminum in drinking water are often calculated based on total aluminum concentrations – aka. both dissolved and solid aluminum compounds.
📑 Alternatives To Berkey Fluoride Filters
Berkey is far from the only brand to sell filters that remove fluoride from drinking water. Many brands don’t sell fluoride filters as optional add-ons, either – the main filter offering removes this impurity.
Some of our favorite filters that remove this contaminant – which DON’T add aluminum to the filtered water – are:
- The Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher – A more affordable and effective alternative to the Countertop Berkey Filter System. This water filter pitcher reduces or removes more than 365 contaminants, including 99.5% fluoride, and has test results to prove it.
- The Epic Pure Water Dispenser– The closest in size and design to the Countertop Berkey Systems. This dispenser removes more than 200 contaminants, including up to 97.88% fluoride, according to the manufacturer’s testing data.
- The AquaTru Countertop RO Filter – An NSF certified alternative to Countertop Berkey systems. This countertop reverse osmosis filtration system has been tested to remove up to 93.5% sodium fluoride, and also reduces hundreds of other competing contaminants in drinking water.
Get more options from our expert reviews and comparison of fluoride water filters. 👈
📝 Final Thoughts
We’re still fans of Berkey’s countertop water filter systems, but this isn’t the first controversy Berkey has faced over the years, and we’re hesitant to recommend the manufacturer for fluoride or arsenic reduction unless or until the aluminum issue is addressed and resolved publicly.
❔ Why You Shouldn’t Use the Berkey PF2 Fluoride Filters: FAQ
Do the Black Berkey filters leach aluminum to water?
No, there’s no risk of aluminum contamination from the Black Berkey filters (the standard filters included with the Countertop Berkey Water Filter Systems). It’s only the optional fluoride filters, the Berkey PF 2 filters, which use activated alumina and leach aluminum into drinking water, according to our test results.
Why are Berkey fluoride filters out of stock?
Berkey’s fluoride filter elements may simply be out of stock due to supply and demand issues. However, Berkey may also be addressing complaints made by customers like us. We previously recommended the Berkey PF 2 Fluoride Filters, but can’t do so while we know from our own testing that they leach potentially dangerous amounts of aluminum into water supplies.
Does Berkey really remove fluoride?
From our testing, it seems that Berkey really does remove fluoride from water – but not nearly as much as the claims made on their website. However, we don’t recommend the Berkey PF2 Fluoride Filters because our testing found that these filters add an unacceptable amount of aluminum into the treated water.