Surely nothing is more synonymous with getting clean than taking a shower, and yet a recent US study reveals that many showerheads are dirty and may be covering you (the showee?) with a daily dose of bacteria that could make you sick. Read on and… and get that oxygen mask out of the drawer.
The study involved nine American cities and an analysis of many showerheads. About 30% of them contained high levels of Mycobacterium avium, a group of bacteria that can cause lung infections when inhaled or swallowed. Mycobacterium avium is linked to pulmonary disease, causing symptoms such as a persistent dry cough, breathlessness and fatigue, and although it mostly infects people with compromised immune systems, it can occasionally infect healthy people.
Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder found the levels of Mycobacterium avium were 100 times higher than those found in typical household water. According to researcher, Norman Pace:
“If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy.”
Pace went on to speculate that the increase in pulmonary infections in recent decades may well be the result of people taking more showers than baths. The process is both simple and sickening. Droplets released from the showerheads are filled with pathogens that suspend themselves in the air and are subsequently easily inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs.
The insides of the showerheads are the problem. They provide a moist and warm haven for bacteria that form sticky “biofilms” which live within the device. For this reason, it is recommended that only metal showerheads be used and that they be changed on a regular basis. Most people are safe from this bacterial onslaught however, as it is only it is those with compromised immune systems due to HIV or immune-suppressing drugs that are at risk. Still, it can’t hurt to know about this.
According to researcher, Leah Feazel:
“This really shouldn’t concern average, healthy people. The main concern is for people who are immune-compromised… Showerheads are not the only potential bacterial dispersants in the home. More research is needed to measure bacteria levels in household devices like humidifiers and evaporative coolers.”