Do Water Filters Really Purify Your Water? | Talking Point | Full Episode

How Do Water Filters Work - Do Water Filters Really Purify Your Water

What exactly do Water Filters do to your water, and do you really need one at home?

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CNA Insider

Water that can give you better digestion, improved hydration, and even help prevent cancer… These are just some of the benefits that water filters promise to give you, but are they everything they claim to be? What exactly do they do to your water, and do you really need one at home?

Through a series of tests, Talking Point host Steven Chia goes in search of answers to find out if filtered water can truly be healthier, cleaner and safer than what we get straight from the tap.

Watch more #TalkingPoint:    • Talking Point | F…   About the show: Talking Point investigates a current issue or event, offering different perspectives to local stories and revealing how it all affects you.


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Video Transcript:


0:15so sales of water filter systems in

0:16singapore have been climbing steadily

0:18over the years

0:19with one company even reporting a 100

0:22increase in unit sales year on year

0:25be perfectly honest i’m actually fine

0:27drinking tap water my wife we first

0:29filtered water

0:30we got this under the sink system which

0:34i believe cost about a thousand dollars

0:36now that’s a whole lot of money

0:38so in this episode of talking point i

0:40want to find out if we

0:42really need these water filters

0:47i’m starting my investigation with


0:50who is the founder of kampung sinha an

0:53eco-conscious charity

0:55which promotes the use of natural

0:56remedies for health and wellness

0:59joyce has been using water filters from

1:01as early as 1999

1:04when she used charcoal sticks like these

1:07to purify her water

1:09it can accept many impurities

1:12including bacteria so this was how

1:15it all started just using at least that

1:18is how we started

1:19nowadays we have very modern technology


1:23i can show you yeah yeah yeah this


1:27ah here is the system all right the


1:31is actually here yeah eight filters here

1:35yes wow okay what does it do

1:38the first four are reverse osmosis so

1:41using the basic ingredient

1:43white chakra to remove all the impurity

1:46or the chlorine

1:47fluoride heavy metals and the last fall

1:51is to add back the good thing the

1:52essential minerals

1:54like magnesium calcium zinc

1:57and do you really think this is

1:59beneficial for our body

2:01the senior they find that they do not

2:03have to go to

2:04toilets so often although they can drink

2:07more water

2:08are you saying the water is um well yes

2:12some of them they slim down some of them

2:14with diabetes they also improve

2:16so how much does a system like that cost

2:19about 2

2:20700 and do you feel that that is worth

2:22the money

2:23to me i look upon it as a responsibility

2:27to our beneficiaries because the people

2:30who come to us

2:31are either chronically ill or they are


2:34who are physically weak and even if you

2:36had to pay for it on your own at home

2:38would you feel that this is worth yes i


2:41i do pay for it because it’s important

2:44to have good water

2:45to take good care of our health water

2:48that is cleaner and healthier

2:50that is what some people believe these

2:52water filters bring us

2:54i’m going to put these claims to the


2:57and i’m starting right here with joyce’s


3:01i’m taking two different samples from

3:03her center

3:04regular tap water and filtered water

3:07and bringing them to the lab for testing

3:10i want to know if filtered water truly

3:12has higher levels of essential minerals

3:14like calcium and zinc

3:16and lower levels of chlorine and

3:17fluoride which some fields has promised

3:20to remove from our tap water

3:24before the results are out i’m tracking

3:26singapore’s water journey

3:28tap water comes to us at the turn of a


3:32but it often travels a long way to get



3:37from our water treatment plants water

3:39enters a network of portable water

3:41distribution pipes

3:43five thousand seven hundred kilometers


3:46to our homes and industries

3:50while some buildings are served directly

3:52by pub water mains

3:54others like this hdb block are served by

3:57rooftop storage tanks

3:59where water is pumped up

4:03before flowing by gravity to our homes


4:09so how is our water kept clean

4:12throughout the entire process

4:16to find out i’ve arranged to meet liu

4:18shenyu he’s responsible for ensuring

4:20water quality

4:21throughout our distribution network so

4:24why are we here at this fire hydrant

4:26flying hydrants like this are not just

4:27used to draw water for firefighting

4:30pub also uses these hydrants to collect

4:32water samples from our extensive

4:34underground pipe network oh

4:35water quality monitoring do you want to

4:37help me take a sample yeah sure let’s go

4:39for it

4:45oh there we go okay

4:48so this is just regular tap water right

4:51yes this is regular tub also

4:52this is the look of it all right we got

4:55our tempo

4:56we also routinely inspect more than 80

4:59000 water tanks on 20 000 buildings

5:01across the island

5:02come let me show you okay let’s go

5:11oh wow what a view it is quite a view

5:15so this whole patch that we’re on is

5:16actually the water tank

5:18that’s right we’re standing right on top

5:19of the water segment so what are we

5:20checking for up here

5:22over here we want to check that the tank

5:24cover is properly

5:25locked we also want to ensure that

5:27there’s a stainless steel bracket

5:29to properly secure the tank cover are we

5:31able to open it

5:32yup okay oh

5:36looks a bit like a swimming pool in

5:37there it is

5:39pub takes samples from each step of the

5:41water journey

5:42from the source to our taps in order to

5:45ensure that water remains clean

5:47throughout the samples are then taken to

5:50its water quality lab where they are

5:52tested for over

5:53300 parameters including ph color and


6:00singapore’s tap water is recognized

6:02internationally to be one of the

6:03cleanest in the world

6:05but why do many still seem obsessed with


6:08cleaner more purified water i’ll soon

6:12find out

6:13if filtered water is indeed cleaner

6:16so you tested both tapped and filtered

6:18water what do the results tell you

6:34i’m investigating the need for water

6:36filters i’ve send water samples from

6:38eagle conscious charity kampung sunung

6:40to a lab for testing

6:42i want to know if filters can really add

6:45more minerals

6:46and reduce the amount of chlorine and

6:48fluoride in our drinking water

6:51the results are out


6:54so you tested both tap and filtered

6:56water what do the results tell you

6:58let’s first look at chlorine and

7:00fluoride okay as these are the two


7:03of concern which the filter promises to

7:05remove for chlorine

7:07you can see that the concentration has

7:09actually remained

7:10the same it is 0.1 milligram per liters

7:13so there’s no significant decrease in

7:15the concentration

7:17but if you were to look at fluoride we

7:18do see a decrease from 0.5

7:21to 0.1 so the reverse osmosis filter did


7:25fluoride from the water itself but the

7:27permissible level

7:28for fluoride in our water is actually

7:320.7 milligrams per liter right so as

7:34long as you do not go above that

7:36it is safe some people believe that the

7:38filter will actually

7:40add more minerals into the water is that


7:43if we were to look at the results

7:45between the tap and filter

7:47magnesium level only went up by one

7:49milligram per liters

7:51and if you look at zinc basically

7:53there’s no change to the concentration

7:55and for calcium there’s actually a


7:58from 30 milligrams per liter to almost

8:01uh one milligram per liter

8:03so if we were to add all three minerals

8:06up that we are observing

8:07in our report it’s actually a drop in

8:10overall mineral contents so in other

8:13words this filter is actually removing

8:14more minerals from the water instead of

8:17adding minerals into the water you’re


8:20so water filters may be able to remove

8:23fluoride from your water

8:24if that’s what you’re concerned about

8:26but if you are looking at adding


8:29into your water well filters may not


8:32live up to their claims but yet there

8:36are so many varieties of water filters

8:38in the market these days

8:43let’s see i’m just doing a bit of online


8:47and i’m finding they have a truly

8:48dizzying array of water filters

8:50available on the market

8:51you’ve got your relatively simple ones

8:54those are cloth filters that cost about

8:5630 cents a piece

8:57there are also water filter pitches now

9:00those go between

9:0130 to 100 and then you’ve got your

9:05faucet filters which attach to your tap

9:07was a price between 50 to 200

9:10but ooh look at this they’ve got the

9:12more fancy counter top systems

9:14those can cost as much as 3 500

9:18but with so much to choose from and they

9:20all have terms like activated

9:22carbon ion exchange and alkaline ionizer

9:26i really have no idea what they all mean

9:31so today i’ve enlisted quark chenco to

9:34help me break it all down

9:36chenco runs a blog called water quality

9:38in singapore

9:40and he has a special interest in water


9:43you know there’s so many different types

9:45of water filters out there

9:47what’s the difference between them there

9:48are two block categories okay

9:50one group remove contaminants from the


9:53the other group actually modify your

9:55water or add something into your water

9:58there are two common kinds of filters

10:00which claim to modify water

10:02ion exchange filters and alkaline


10:06chenco is going to show me what really

10:08goes on in each of these filters

10:11so what’s this one that we’re looking at

10:13this one that you are looking at

10:14is an ion exchange filter it acts like a

10:17water softener

10:18imagine your hot water going into the


10:21and what makes water hard well basically

10:25if you have calcium and magnesium ions

10:27inside your water

10:28it contributes to the hardness so hard

10:31water has more

10:32of this the calcium and magnesium yes

10:35that’s right all right how does it work

10:37imagine this part here is your water


10:40and the yellow magnets are your iron

10:41exchange resins okay

10:43hot water goes in from the top and this


10:47calcium it gets

10:51captured by the iron exchange resin


10:54some of the hydrogen ions into your

10:57outlet water so eventually most of

11:01your calcium and magnesium ions will be

11:04captured by the

11:06iron exchange resin and out comes salt


11:09the lack of calcium and magnesium ions

11:11make the water soft

11:13softer water is often desired by coffee


11:16because the lack of minerals can prevent

11:19limescale buildup from clogging your

11:20coffee machine

11:22some also believe that using softer

11:24water can brew a more flavorful cup of


11:31now over here we have what we call


11:35it’s basically used to produce alkaline

11:37water you need an electric current to go

11:39through your water

11:40and split it and in the process it

11:42produces hydraulic water

11:44if you can see one of these electrodes

11:46has a lot of bubbles coming out

11:48where alkaline water is produced if i

11:51put this into my electrolyzer here

11:55you can see a deeper green which


11:58alkaline water according to the color oh


12:01so it is converting the water in there

12:04by running a current through it yes and

12:06alkali water is also

12:08supposed to be beneficial for us yes a

12:11lot of people do believe it’s more

12:12beneficial it’s healthier

12:14nyx is the other kind of filter that is

12:17designed to remove

12:18contaminants from water the activated

12:20carbon filter

12:22activated carbon is a very common

12:24component in a lot of filters

12:27chenko proceeds to pour some blue dyed

12:29water through a coffee filter

12:30lined with activated carbon that’s the

12:33black powder you see there

12:36you can see the water dripping up now as

12:38blue that’s right

12:40so essentially this carbon is absorbing

12:42the blue dye

12:44yes and imagine the blue dye is your

12:46contaminant in the water

12:47that is what your activated carbon is

12:49doing it’s removing certain pollutants

12:51for example

12:52sovereign chlorine and certain

12:55chemicals it can’t remove bacteria

12:57unless it’s specially designed to do


13:00okay for people who are out there

13:01looking for water filter

13:03what should they be looking out for

13:04first point they must

13:06already know what they want to remove

13:08from their water

13:09or modify their water for example are

13:12they going to remove chlorine

13:13and fluoride if that is the case they

13:16should look for a water filter that can

13:17handle that particular task second point

13:21a water filter which is certified by a

13:23third party

13:24not related to any of these

13:26manufacturers or retailers

13:28my third point for consumers is to think

13:30about how often you need to change your


13:33now the problem is this filters over

13:35time can

13:36actually allow bacteria to grow within


13:39and of particular concern will be the

13:41activated carbon because

13:43it absorbs organic matter which actually

13:46serves as food for bacteria

13:48so we are talking about bacteria growing

13:50on your filter

13:51and coming up into your water which you

13:54are drinking

13:55right so if you don’t change it

13:56regularly it’s like the clean water

13:58going in

13:58getting mixed up with all the bacteria

14:00and then coming out into your cup

14:02yes which is even worse right yes that’s


14:05could bacteria really grow in overdue

14:08filters and leak into the filtered water

14:10i need to find out i’m collecting two

14:13samples each

14:14from five different households who drink

14:16filtered water including my own

14:19the filters are all multi-stage filters

14:21which contain

14:22different types of filter medium but

14:25they all have

14:26one thing in common they all contain

14:29activated carbon the one thing that

14:31chenco has warned me about

14:34i’m sending my samples to the lab for

14:36another test

14:38in that particular filter there is an

14:40additional opportunity for the bacteria

14:42to regrow

14:58i’ve just found out that if we don’t

15:00change our water filters regularly

15:02bacteria can accumulate in them and

15:05contaminate our filtered water


15:10so i gather water samples from five

15:12different households who use water


15:14including my own i’ve taken two samples

15:18each from these households

15:20one a filtered water and one of regular

15:23tap water

15:26i’m sending the samples to the lab for

15:28testing today

15:30i want to know how effective water


15:34really are in our homes

15:38as we’re waiting for the results i

15:40investigate one more thing

15:43water filter and alkaline water

15:45companies alike

15:46advertise a laundry list of health

15:48claims from improved gastrointestinal


15:52to detoxification improve skin condition

15:56better blood circulation and even

15:59preventing cancer

16:01i know water is the essence of life but

16:05can all this really be true

16:09to find out i’m consulting dr lyong lai


16:13dr leong is a food scientist she’s been

16:16looking into some of the claims

16:17companies have made

16:18ever since she took on a part-time job

16:21selling water filters

16:22when she was still a student so dr leung

16:25i have here

16:26a bunch of health claims that all these


16:29treatment companies say they are water

16:32can do for you

16:33from helping your body detox even

16:35improve my gastrointestinal health

16:38is that true according to the claims

16:40some of them said because it is

16:42alkaline water it helps to neutralize


16:45acid the acid in the stomach but the

16:48thing is that

16:48the acid is there to help with digestion

16:52if you neutralize it it doesn’t digest

16:54as well anymore right

16:55there’s no reason why anybody want to

16:57neutralize the acid in their stomach

17:04okay let me ask you about this it says

17:06it can help my body absorb

17:08water better because the water molecules

17:10are smaller

17:11now the water molecules doesn’t change

17:14in size whether they go through the

17:15filter or not it’s still the same size

17:17water is water there shouldn’t be any

17:20difference at all between

17:21filtered water or normal tap water it


17:24both help you to hydrate

17:31what about this claim that it can help

17:33prevent cancer

17:35well there are actually no evidence that

17:38it can prevent

17:39cancer no evidence whatsoever

17:46any group of people that would benefit

17:48from drinking these treated water

17:50so there are some water treatment system

17:52that is able

17:53to get rid of some germs so people

17:57undergoing cancer treatment for example

17:59or people who are immunocompromised

18:01who are very vulnerable that’s a benefit

18:04if they take this water that can filter

18:07away the microorganisms

18:08that they wanted filtered away


18:12so it turns out that the claims are more

18:15often than not

18:16just persuasive marketing gimmicks but

18:19while it might not give me better


18:22or prevent me from getting cancer it

18:24should at the very least

18:26ensure that my water is free from

18:28dangerous bacteria


18:33it’s been a week since i dropped off my

18:35water samples at the lab for testing

18:38and the results are out i’ve also

18:42invited the households i took the

18:43samples from


18:50turns out the bacteria account for tap

18:52water taken from four of the households

18:54were all under 500 some as low as

18:58less than one a bacteria count of 500 is

19:01the safe limit imposed by the singapore

19:03food agency

19:05but when it came to filtered water from

19:07these four households

19:09three of them had bacteria counts that

19:11were between

19:129 000 to a whopping 25

19:15400 but one household bugged the trend

19:20household 5’s tap water had a bacteria

19:22count of thirteen thousand

19:24six hundred it’s filled with water a

19:26bacterial count

19:27of less than one dr guillaume drillet

19:30spearheaded this test

19:32he’s going to help us make sense of the


19:36there are reason to explain why you

19:38could have regrowth of bacteria in the


19:40filters my number is about 25 000

19:43which is like a lot more yeah that

19:46sounds pretty high

19:47was your filter changed recently or

19:50it’s changed one month past the supposed

19:54so you have used it longer than what the

19:56manufacturers recommends right

19:58okay okay that could explain the high

20:00factorial count

20:01so the longer you keep your filter

20:03running the higher probability that you

20:05will have a regrowth of bacteria

20:07so it’s very important to follow the

20:08schedule proposed by the manufacturers

20:10but even then so i actually did just

20:13change my filter

20:14about a month ago i would have thought

20:16there should be well almost no bacteria

20:18since it’s almost

20:19a brand new filter right so bacteria are

20:21regrow very fast

20:22so as soon you have nutrients and

20:24surface to regrow you will have

20:25development of a biofilm

20:27so if you look at it this way having a

20:29filter add one more step

20:32after the water you receive from the tap

20:34and in that particular filter there is

20:36an additional

20:37basically opportunity for the bacteria

20:39to regrow

20:42so even when the filters are not past

20:44their due date for replacement

20:46they could still be introducing higher

20:48bacteria accounts into unfiltered water

20:52so is this bacteria harmful for us yes

20:55and no

20:56not all bacteria are bad there are some

20:58good bacteria if you drink probiotics

20:59you will ingest a lot more bacteria than


21:02so it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad

21:03it means that you have an increase of

21:05bacteria meaning potentially there could

21:07be some pathogenic bacteria regrowing in

21:09your filter

21:10if you don’t have a control of this it

21:12could be a problem so

21:13in the filter we may be collecting

21:15bacteria both good

21:16and bad and we just don’t know which one

21:18and you can’t control it

21:20and this is why technically the water

21:22from pob

21:24is safer because there is a control here

21:26so the water you receive

21:27at the tap has been treated by the

21:29public utility boards

21:31and contain chlorine to forbid regrowth

21:34the filter may remove some of this


21:36and act as a place where the bacteria

21:38can actually start regrowing

21:40but wendy has some unusual results

21:43wendy is from household five where our

21:46tests show that the level of bacteria

21:47for her tap water

21:49was shockingly at a count of 13 600

21:53compared to her filtered water which had

21:55a bacteria count

21:56of less than one the question to ask

22:00here is what could have created those

22:03higher presence of bacteria directly

22:05from the tap right

22:06so you may consider that the the filter

22:09here has done the job

22:10but for for me i will take this results

22:13with a

22:14cautious step and maybe start

22:18investigating to find out where the

22:19source of the issue in that case could


22:22knowing these results will you still

22:24continue using your water filter

22:26i would say yes because the water filter

22:29makes my water taste a bit better but

22:30definitely i would

22:32change my filter on time and also boil

22:35the water

22:38one last thing to investigate the

22:41findings from household 5’s tap water

22:43why is the bacteria count so high

22:47i took my findings to the pob who did

22:49their own tests

22:50and found the tap water taken from

22:52household five had a bacteria count of

22:55less than one

22:57pob told talking point to avoid any

22:59external contamination of the water

23:01doing sampling

23:02it’s standard practice for taps to be

23:04disinfected first

23:06so the high bacteria count from our

23:08sample may have been due to contaminants

23:11in household 5’s tap not from the water


23:18so are water filters really necessary

23:20well if you think about how

23:21rigorous our water treatment process is

23:23the answer is no

23:25our tap water is perfectly safe to drink


23:28even though filtered water isn’t a

23:30miracle cure for say cancer

23:31it gives me better digestion and some

23:33people believe it does

23:35it could be useful for those who are

23:37vulnerable to infections

23:38so as long as you do proper maintenance

23:40and change your filters regularly

23:42otherwise this supposedly cleaner water

23:45could actually do you more harm

23:47than good


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