Hidden dangers of the daily shower with thanks to Pat Kiely;
And we’re not talking about Norman Bates..
Tue 29 Jun, 2010 09:00 am GMT
© Valua Vitaly – Fotolia.com
Watching the classic Hitchcock movie Psycho may have given some of us a fear of taking a shower, but a new study suggests there may be more likely dangers lurking in the bathroom.
Scientists in the US used an ultra sensitive method to detect bacteria in shower-heads in bathrooms across the country.
Results showed that around 30 per cent of shower-heads had “significant amounts” of Mycobacterium avium, a bacterium linked to breathing illnesses that most often infects people in poor health but can also cause illness in healthy individuals.
These bacteria are often found in water. However, in shower-heads the bacteria tend to clump together to form a slimy “biofilm”, at a concentration more than 100 times greater than is found in ordinary water.
Professor Norman Pace, who led the study, said: “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.”
These results may also provide an explanation for the rise in Mycobacterium avium infections in recent years, coinciding with people preferring showers over baths.
“Water spurting from shower-heads can distribute pathogen-filled droplets that suspend themselves in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs”, Dr Pace noted.
Symptoms of pulmonary disease caused by the germ include tiredness, a persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness and “generally feeling bad,” Dr Pace said. People with compromised immune systems, like pregnant women, the elderly and those who are fighting off other diseases, are more prone to experience symptoms, he added.
This is not the first time that such dangers have been uncovered in public bathing waters. Previous studies by Dr Pace and his group found massive enrichments of the germ in “soap scum” commonly found on vinyl shower curtains and floating above the water surface of warm therapy pools.
A 2006 therapy pool study also found it in the indoor pool environment, which was linked to a pneumonia-like pulmonary condition in pool attendants known as “lifeguard lung”.
What this study means
This study took place in the US, where water quality standards are different from those of the UK. However, it does seem a good precaution to let the shower run for a few moments before entering, and to regularly clean the shower and the shower-head.
Also metal shower-heads seem to be cleaner that plastic ones according to Dr Pace.