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Why NSF Certification Is So Important

There are so many water filtration products on the market.

Many make various claims about which contaminants they can remove and at what percentage they can be removed.

The challenge for the consumer is, how can you possibly know if those claims are accurate?

100k Water Filters on Amazon

The only way to know for certain that a filtration system does what it claims is with independent testing.

And so, many companies will claim that their systems have been independently tested for the contaminants they claim to reduce.

Upon inspection, however, we've found many of these claims to be misleading, misworded, or unsubstantiated.

A common example of misleading claims...

We found an under-sink system on Amazon that was well reviewed and rated for a capacity of 5 years/50k gallons. It claimed to reduce pesticides, chlorine, chloramines, and volatile organics and claimed to be NSF Certified.

Upon closer inspection, however, it turned out that the system was NSF Certified for safety of materials only under NSF Standard 61. This means the materials used in the system are safe and free from hazardous materials.

-->> Key: It doesn't speak to performance.

After speaking with the company, they said the system had been tested to NSF Standard 42 for chlorine and that it had passed testing, but the company had chosen not to pursue full NSF certification.

But that testing was for chlorine reduction only.

Chlorine is very easy to remove. Multipure systems will remove chlorine for a very long time, almost into infinity.

It's the many other contaminants that Multipure is certified for that use up the filter's capacity much faster. 

That includes the byproducts of chlorine disinfection, Trihalomethanes (THM's) and Haloacetic Acids (HAA's). These occur as a byproduct of chlorine reacting with organic compounds, and they are proven carcinogens. They are far more difficult to remove and they use up a filter's capacity much faster.

The example filtration system being discussed does not have enough physical media in it to remove these and other health-hazardous compounds for 50,000 gallons (this system was roughly the size of a 1.5 liter bottle).

It's possible that it could reduce chlorine for 50,000 gallons, perhaps, but certainly not these far more dangerous compounds. 

-->> That's why we feel it is misleading to claim or even suggest that a system like this is capable of reducing these compounds. 

This system is just one example, but there are hundreds of systems making similar misleading claims.

Doctored Lab Test

Doctored Testing Protocols

On multiple occasions we've tracked down true independent lab data on a popular filtration system and compared it to the published reduction claims.

A popular water pitcher, for example, claims to be able to reduce arsenic by 89.9%. 

It also boldly claims a 90% fluoride reduction capability (we have never seen any non-RO system able to achieve high levels of fluoride reduction unless the source water is acidic, which you virtually never see in municipal water).

On this company's website is published a lab test from the County of Los Angeles proving these results. The testing parameters are laid out in the beginning, and they really tell the tale.

-->> All of the tests were measured for the first 500ml of filtered water on a brand new unit!

This particular system is advertised to last 150 gallons before needing a filter change.

Yet the testing is only done on the first 500ml of the system's life?

When Multipure has tested so-called fluoride filters in their in-house lab, they commonly see systems achieve good reduction rates for the first few gallons before dropping off sharply and failing completely. That's because the medias used to remove fluoride cannot operate effectively in neutral or alkaline water. 

But if you doctor up a test to only measure during the first 500ml of filtering on a brand new unit, you can sure make it look effective at reducing fluoride.

See my point? 

It's very easy to decide what claims you want to advertise for your system, and then create test parameters that are favorable so your "independent lab" can send you a document showing a certain percentage reduction of the contaminants you want.

After some digging, however, I did find some legit testing done on this same pitcher system, done according to NSF Standard 53 Protocols. 

Remember that the advertised claim for arsenic was a 89.9% reduction.

What was the actual arsenic reduction in this NSF-Standardized test?

A whopping 16.5%.

And that number was not easy to find. It was way, way down in the pages on a document that was no longer published on the company's website. The top of the document had a different lab test showing a 90% reduction.

Oh, and about that 90% fluoride reduction...would you care to know what the true lab result was?

I would care to know as well, but unfortunately fluoride was curiously omitted from this test.

Actually, it was omitted in each legitimate independent lab test I was able to find from this company, other than the test mentioned with doctored testing parameters.

And I can tell you folks, we see this all the time in the water filtration industry. 

It's deceptive and misleading in our professional opinion.

By the way, the author would like to note that this particular pitcher system is not a bad product. It's better than most water filter pitchers. It cannot hold a candle to a Multipure system, but it's not a fundamentally bad product. It's just making ridiculous reduction claims that in our opinion are deceptive and misleading.

So how do you distinguish what a water filtration system is actually capable of?

NSF Certification is the answer.

NSF (The National Sanitation Foundation) is an international non-profit. It's a totally unbiased, independent organization that performs testing and certification for many types of products, primarily regarding safety and sanitation.

NSF Logo

One of its main testing categories is water filtration products. NSF sets standards and parameters for testing as various contaminants become a public concern.

Each contaminant has a standardized testing procedure and in many cases is tested at at least twice the concentration that the EPA considers hazardous.

So if you're concerned about lead, for example, NSF testing will test a system for its ability to remove lead at a much higher concentration than you are likely to see in your water.

Same goes for nearly every contaminant NSF tests for.

Not only does NSF test for a system's ability to reduce that contaminant at a minimum rate (usually 95% reduction minimum) at that high concentration, but it tests for how long the system can maintain that reduction rate.

Whatever that tested, proven capacity is, they cut the number in half and certify the system for that capacity.

So in the case of our bestselling Aquaversa, which passed NSF testing for each listed contaminant for 1,500 gallons, it received NSF Certification for 750 gallons.

NSF Standards

NSF Standard 61 is a certification for material safety. It means that the physical media used in a water filter system has been tested to be free of hazardous materials such as lead. Some water filter systems will say "NSF Certified for Material Requirements Only." This means NSF 61. Some key points about NSF 61:

1. It certifies safety of materials only, not tested system performance

2. All water filter systems sold, distributed, or manufactured in North America are required to comply with NSF 61. Read more about this.

3. All NSF Certified systems that are actually performance tested and Certified for the other standards listed below, must be made with 100% NSF 61 Certified materials.

NSF Standard 42 primarily concerns what are considered aesthetic-concern contaminants. These include chlorine, chloramines, particulates, and taste/odor. In our opinion these contaminants are in fact more than aesthetic in nature....they are serious health concerns. Chlorine and chloramines are especially worrisome. But NSF considers them aesthetic concerns and that is what Standard 42 is set up to test. 

NSF Standard 53 is testing for contaminants of health concern. These are known health-hazards like mercury, lead, asbestos, cysts, giardia, chlordane (pesticide), MTBE (gasoline additive), PCB's (industrial electric products component), toxaphene (toxic insecticide that is banned), radon (radioactive odorless gas), and a long list of volatile organic compounds (VOC's). Trihalomethanes (THM's) and Haloacetic Acids (HAA's) are both part of that list of VOC's.

NSF Standard 401 is a newer protocol that was created in response to consumer demand for independent testing on what are known as emerging contaminants. These are contaminants like pesticides, insecticides, and pharmaceuticals that have leached into water supplies in trace amounts in recent years. The contaminants tested in this category are tested in trace quantities, standards set by NSF to reflect real-world conditions for these contaminants. Some of the compounds on this list are quite familiar to most, such as Ibuprofen and DEET (bug spray, anyone?). 

NSF Standard P231 is also a newer standard that rates a systems ability to reduce biological contaminants. These would include virus, bacteria, and live cysts. Bacteria reduction certification must meet a 6-factor reduction capability (99.9999% bacteria reduction) and virus must meet a 4-factor reduction capability (99.99% virus reduction). Very few systems are able to pass these rigorous testing standards. And of the systems that do, they usually are not efficient at removing other health hazard contaminants (The Multipure Aqualuxe is the only system we've seen that reduces a huge spectrum of health-hazard contaminants, AND is NSF Certified to remove bacteria and virus).

It's important to note that a system may be certified under one of these standards, but not for all of the contaminants. 

There are many products out there that can correctly state that they are Certified under NSF 42 and 53, but not for very many contaminants. Recently we saw a product that stated this, and when we looked up their NSF listing, under Standard 42, they are certified for chlorine reduction only, and under Standard 53, for cysts only. 

So while that's still better than many filter systems on the market, just seeing certification for NSF 42 or 53 doesn't tell the whole story. You have to look at which specific contaminants are listed under the certification.

You can always see that on NSF's water filter listings. See Multipure's NSF Listing.

Comparing NSF Certified Water Filter Systems and What They Can Reduce

Below are some charts that really tell the tale of what the majority of water filter systems Certified by NSF are actually able to reduce. The first chart graphs the number of systems certified to reduce a given single contaminant.

NSF Single Contaminant Water Filters

As you can see, there are 1,462 water filtration systems NSF Certified for the ability to reduce Cysts. But there are only 145 Certified to reduce MTBE and only 45 Certified to reduce PCB. This chart is interesting because it kind of shows you which contaminants are easier to reduce and which are very difficult to reduce.

Where it really gets interesting is when you look at systems' abilities to remove combinations of contaminants. 

NSF Multipure Contaminant Combination Chart Water Filters

As you can see, there are 598 systems that are NSF Certified to remove at least a combination of cysts and lead. By the time you add mercury and asbestos to the cysts/lead combination, the list is already more than cut in half to just 228 certified systems.

The group becomes elite when you look at a combination of cysts, lead, mercury, MTBE, asbestos, VOC, PCB, and chloramine. Just 13 systems can make these claims.

But you'll notice on the right side of the graph, the two bars of 5 and 1, respectively. The bar of 5 represents systems that can reduce cysts, lead, mercury, MTBE, asbestos, VOC, PCB, chloramines, and all three groups of Emerging Contaminants under NSF Standard 401. Just 5 systems meet these elite requirements. They all happen to be made by Multipure.

And that bar of 1? That's the Multipure Aqualuxe. It's unparalleled in its ability to reduce all of the following: cysts, lead, mercury, MTBE, asbestos, VOC, PCB, chloramines, all three groups of Emerging Contaminants under Standard 401, arsenic V, bacteria and virus.

Don't you think the NSF Certification makes it so much easier to know what you're getting in a water filter? We sure do.

Continued Testing 

Here's a really cool, noteworthy fact: to maintain NSF Certification, you not only have to pass the initial lab tests and protocols, but NSF routinely buys your products on the open market at random and tests them to make sure your quality hasn't changed. 

That's the unparalleled level of assurance you get with the rigorous NSF Certification process.

We don't know of any other certification or protocol from any independent organization that matches this level of rigorous, unbiased testing and quality control.


To summarize all the benefits of NSF Certified water filter systems, here's a quick recap:

1. NSF Standard 61 certifies the media and materials used to make water filters as safe, sanitary, and non-toxic. All water filtration systems sold or made in North America must use NSF 61 Certified materials in their systems.

2. NSF also offers performance testing and certification for various contaminants under NSF Standard 42 (aesthetic effects), NSF Standard 53 (health hazard compounds), NSF Standard 401 (emerging contaminants), and NSF Standard P231 (microbiological water filters protocol).

3. All of the water filters certified under standards 42, 53, 401, and P231 must be made with 100% NSF 61 Certified materials, so you know they don't add anything detrimental to the water.

4. Under the various performance standards, a system may be certified for one or multiple contaminants. It's important to look for precisely which contaminants your system have been certified for. 

5. Systems are certified for one-half of their tested capacity for each contaminant. So if a system is tested to pass protocol testing for each certified contaminant for 1,200 gallons, it will be NSF Certified for 600 gallons. This adds a layer of redundancy and protection for the consumers in worst-case scenario water conditions. 

6. Systems that are certified under Standards 42, 53, 401, and P231 are not just tested once, but are routinely purchased by NSF on the open market and re-tested. This adds another layer of assurance and protection for the consumer.

7. Many systems are certified under one or more standards, but as you add multiple contaminants to the search, the majority of systems are eliminated.

-->> Bottom Line: Multipure systems are NSF Certified to reduce more contaminants than any other systems (with the exception of reverse osmosis, which wastes tons of water and removes minerals as well). Our Aquaperform and Aqualuxe models are the only non-reverse-osmosis systems ever to be NSF Certified for Arsenic V.

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