Can Activated Carbon Remove Heavy Metals from Water?

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We all need water as a basic necessity of survival. Drinking and cooking with clean water is essential. Without clean water, humans can become extremely ill from the waterborne pathogens and elements that find their way into our plumbing systems.

The degree of heavy metal toxicity is rising rapidly and often an unknown cause of several serious health problems.

Generally characterized as metallic components, these metals have a high density and are poisonous or harmful at lower concentrations. Several heavy metals typically exist in the ecosystems and are usually not a major issue in small concentrations.

However, with the advance of modern technology, these metals are used in various products daily and have leached into air, food, and water. It is the danger of these low to moderate concentrations of metals over a prolonged duration that causes sickness.

How to Test Drinking Water for Heavy Metals?

How to Test Drinking Water for Heavy Metals?
How to Test Drinking Water for Heavy Metals?

Depending on how you receive your water, either from municipality water treatment facility or a private well, it is essential to test the water that is coming from your tap.

The groundwater surrounding your well (or the groundwater that may be seeping into the treatment facility’s supply pipes) should also be tested for contaminated runoff and be assessed for the potential problems it can cause. A broad range of heavy metal concentrations can be measured with the Water Metals Test.

This test strip tests for Cadmium, Cobolt, Copper, Lead, Nickel, Mercury, Zinc, and other toxic metals. The test utilizes a very sensitive non-specific symbol that detects various common heavy metals of concern.

With this test, you will get accurate results very fast, making the new Water Metals Check test strip excellent for water treatment and filter evaluation use. Strips come in either foil packets or bottles marked with an easy-to-use, and a specific color chart. This product is easy and safe to use because an MSDS is not required, there are no chemicals to mix, and the indicator is noncarcinogenic.

This is a simple procedure of using metals check test strip to test for heavy metals:

  1. First, for 30 seconds, dip one test strip into a 20 ml water sample.
  2. Then remove the strip and shake the excess water out.
  3. Wait for two minutes, then pair with the nearest color on the color chart provided.

Because of the sensitivity of this test, the testing reverse osmosis (RO) which is a system-purified water needs to confirm that your system is functioning properly; therefore, the heavy metal should read <10 ppb. And for all the tap water that passes through a metal pipe, it should read < 20 ppb or higher for heavy metals. Additionally, bottled water should read <10 ppb.

What Metals Can Activated Carbon Remove from Water?

What Metals Can Activated Carbon Remove from Water?
What Metals Can Activated Carbon Remove from Water?

The carbon filter is a more powerful alternative that is the best at removing organic and synthetic organic impurities from the water.

The best carbon block filters reduce pollutants like arsenic, asbestos, lead, mercury, and radon.

Can Activated Charcoal Remove Heavy Metals?

Also known as activated carbon, activated charcoal comprises of solid black porous sponge or small black beads. It is used in water filters, chemical purification processes, and medicines that selectively remove toxins.

Activated charcoal acts like a magnet and attracts toxins and releases them from the bodies. These toxins can also include a small amount of metals such as chelated copper, mercury, and iron.

How Long Does Activated Carbon Last?

Many individuals assume that activated carbon will last for a few days or months. However, the activated carbon will last depending on a lot of different things. Note that the activated carbon has various brands, and they each use different temperatures to charge the carbon, which can extend or shorten its life span than the other brands.

For instance, when it comes to aquarium water, the activated carbon usually lasts between two to four weeks. It can also last the same time in the air filter before using it again.

Can You Re-use Activated Carbon?

Can You Re-use Activated Carbon?
Can You Re-use Activated Carbon?

Whether or not you can or should re-use activated carbon depends on its purpose. If you separate the impurities in the used activated carbon, then indeed, it can be re-used.

You can recover up to 80% of its value since it seldom uses the carbon to its limit and can be done as multiple times as you wish. Indeed you can possibly extend the life of an activated carbon sponge by sanding or cutting off the outer surface to display the interior, which might not have fully lost its ability to filter media.

Furthermore, activated carbon beads can be heated to 300 degrees for less than an hour in the oven on a single layer. Then you can let it cool completely before placing it in an open shallow dish in an area from which you want to remove odors. This process will break the natural element in the carbon, which can then be washed off; however, it won’t reduce any heavy metals.

Therefore, it’s usually best to replace the carbon. Note that you can’t always burn the soft material that has been coated with activated carbon since it might melt and release toxic chemicals, basically contaminating the gas or liquid it was meant to purify. All in all, you could prolong the life of activated carbon for an aquarium. However, it’s unwise to try to re-use a filter used for drinking water.


Many savvy consumers are now turning to an activated carbon whole house filter to solve the growing issue of water contamination.

The problems that run from the tap are increasing as a result of pesticides, agricultural runoff, improper disposal of household chemicals, and high chlorine usage for purification by outdated water treatment facilities.

Remember, there is no new water on the planet. What we have is what we will continue to get. What flows from your tap isn’t going to change much. That’s why people are taking matters into their own hands and installing activated carbon whole house filters.

By installing the activated carbon, the whole house filter protects you and your family from the damaging effects of chemicals and heavy metals.


This is George, the Aquaman, editor at AquaMantra. I'm a water quality analyst by profession, and used to work at one of the largest water bottler company.
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