Q. After having heard about lead in the water in Flint, Mich., I became worried about the drinking water at my home. Should I buy a filter?

A. Reports of unsafe drinking water pouring from taps in Flint and other cities can be alarming. But before you panic, you should check your municipal water report and also have your drinking water tested, says Chris Hendel, Consumer Reports’ medical researcher. The Environmental Protection Agency posts municipal water-quality reports every July; find yours at epa.gov/safewater. But if your home was built before lead-free pipes were mandated in 1986 or if you use well water, a test is the best way to assess the quality of the drinking water at your home.

Your state or local health department might offer free test kits. The EPA’s website lists local labs; you can also call its Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

If tests find lead in your drinking water and the level is below 150 parts per billion (ppb), a filter can make your water safer to drink. (Some water samples collected in Flint were well over that.) Water filters are certified for lead reduction only up to 150 ppb. If lead levels are higher or if tests reveal other concerns, such as arsenic, bacteria, or parasites, contact your local health department for advice. You can also contact the EPA for further guidance.

In our most recent tests of water filters, the top picks were the Clear2O carafe, $30, and the faucet-mounted Culligan FM-15A, $20. Both were top-rated for removing lead and other contaminants. The Culligan is NSF-certified, which means that it was independently verified under standards from NSF International to reduce lead to 10 ppb or less. That’s the standard many toxicologists recommend, although there’s no universally accepted safe level for lead or many other contaminants.

We also recommend the faucet-mounted Pur FM-3700B, $30, which is one of three water filters distributed by officials in Flint, according to Michigan.gov/flintwater.

For related health information, check our water filter buying guide.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.