In general, carbon filters remove at least 81 chemicals and are effective at reducing another 52. According to the EPA, activated carbon is the only filtering material that removes all 12 identified herbicides and 14 pesticides, along with all 32 identified organic contaminants.
Activated carbon also removes chemicals, such as chlorine, that affect the aesthetic quality of your drinking water. Most public water systems in the United States contain chlorine as a disinfectant. However, chlorine can lead to an unpleasant taste and smell in tap water as well as create potentially carcinogenic byproducts. Activated carbon filters out chlorine byproducts and VOCs, to produce clean water.
Note that on its own, activated carbon doesn’t remove every contaminant. Certain minerals, salts, and metals can slip through the filter. However, much of this is only true for GAC filters. Carbon block filters are capable of removing many more pollutants, including metals such as lead. Carbon block filters also remove microbiological contaminants from drinking water, including waterborne pathogens. The best carbon block filters reduce pollutants like arsenic, asbestos, mercury, and radon.
While no filter is capable of removing every contaminant from water, carbon block filters come close. Additionally, carbon filtration systems target pollution without stripping water of beneficial compounds like minerals, making your water as safe and healthy as possible.