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Nearly 300 million Americans get their drinking water from EPA-governed community water systems. These water systems must follow purification standards set forth by the Safe Water Drinking Act and the EPA that are meant to remove over 80 different contaminants from water sources, including e-coli, chlorine, arsenic, and lead. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million Americans are still becoming sick after drinking contaminated water every year. Even though water treatment plants are legally required to remove some of the contaminants found in our water sources, oftentimes many particles and bacteria are left behind for us to drink.

Refrigerator water filters have become commonplace in many homes, as they are meant to filter out any remaining contaminants such as lead or rust in our water before we drink it. The ability of these filters to purify water is measured in microns; the lower the micron rating, the greater ability the filter has to capture small contaminants. Refrigerator water filters often use carbon and have an average rating of 20 microns, meaning they mostly remove contaminants that affect taste and smell. Refrigerator water filters cannot be relied on to remove all particles and bacteria that may be harmful to anyone drinking that water.


The number one risk involved with drinking water purified by a refrigerator water filter is that often the refrigerator filter fails to remove all the contaminants in the water. Studies have shown that microorganisms such as salmonella and coliform often make their way past water filters, and these contaminants can be seriously detrimental to your health.

In 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a study that found that water sources for 18 million Americans have lead violations and other EPA-restricted contaminants due to a mix of pollution and deteriorating equipment. The other contaminants found in these water supplies include arsenic, fecal waste, rocket fuel, and chemical byproducts formed during water treatment processes.

Most refrigerator water filters aren’t meant to filter out such harmful contaminants, as the EPA is supposed to be purifying the water before it makes it to the refrigerator. Waterborne bacteria need fungus and moisture to survive, making your refrigerator water filter the perfect place for them to bloom. Even in cases where drinking water is properly purified before being distributed, studies have shown that traces of pharmaceuticals, lead, and parasites such as chlorine-resistant cysts are often not filtered out before the water is distributed. Refrigerator water filters are only meant to filter out certain contaminants, so when bacteria or particles that are supposed to have already been removed from the water aren’t, your refrigerator water filter probably can’t protect you.

Changing the Filter

As refrigerator filters remove what contaminants and particles they can, they become clogged with whatever they’ve managed to remove from the water. These filters need to be changed approximately every six months and not doing so can have disastrous effects. If you don’t change your filter, you may end up consuming harmful bacteria, chemicals, and particles every time you get a glass of water from the fridge.

When refrigerator filters go unchanged, it is common to find E. coli and fecal coliform in your water, bacteria that can cause serious damage to your health. Some refrigerators do not have indicator lights to let you know that the filter needs to be changed and the filter itself is usually out of sight, so it can be easy to forget to keep up with the necessary maintenance. Be sure to set yourself some kind of reminder to replace your refrigerator water filter or you may be exposed to dangerously contaminated water.


If the water coming from your refrigerator is found to be contaminated, it may not be the filter’s fault. According to a 2013 study from the National Sanitation Foundation, the germiest place in your kitchen is the refrigerator water dispenser. The study found that most of these dispensers are coated with “concerning levels” of mold and yeast.

The dispenser can also pick up airborne particles that may be coming from rotten food in your kitchen. As your water pours through the dispenser, it can pick up these contaminants and bacteria. Even if your refrigerator filter is doing a sufficient job, if the water is reintroduced to particles on the dispenser, anyone drinking that water can be at risk for contamination.

Optimum Bottleless Water Coolers

All of this information may be concerning, but the good news is if you’re looking to protect you and your family from drinking contaminated water, Optimum is here to help! Our bottleless water coolers are equipped with the latest advancements in water purification technology, including reverse osmosis filtration, a process that has been found to be more effective than the carbon filters that are standard for refrigerators. For more information about how Optimum can help provide you and your family safe, clean drinking water, visit our website today.