If you’ve ever gotten your hands or fingers in some Clorox chlorine bleach, you know what it feels like: the burning, the lasting dryness, the feeling like your skin is shrinking into your bones to get away, get away! Well unfortunately, for many people living in populated areas, you may be bathing in chlorine every day.
Most sources of city water use chlorine to disinfect the water. Unfortunately, chlorine in your shower can wreak havoc on your skin-and may have other lasting health effects as well. Because you’re bathing in a hot, steamy environment, your pores open up and actually absorb more chemicals from your water than they normally would.
And it’s not just your skin absorbing it-it’s your nose and mouth too. As you inhale, you can take in chlorine and chlorinated by-products called “trihalomethanes (THMs),” which trigger the production of free radicals in your body and have been reported to be carcinogenic in animal studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (and several scientific journals). Worse, once released, these toxins can circulate in your home, particularly if your shower is not well ventilated.
In fact, according to Water Warning, Dr. Lance Wallace of the U.S. EPA has said that showering is suspected to be the primary cause of elevated levels of chloroform in nearly every home because of chlorine in the water.1 The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) agrees, reporting that over ten epidemiological studies found that disinfection by-products (DBPs) may be responsible for thousands of cases of rectal and bladder cancers per year, that the levels of THMs increases substantially when water is heated, and-here’s the good news-by removing precursors to DBPs, risk can be reduced.2
I could tell you a lot more on this subject-particularly about some other contaminants regularly found in tap water-but for now let’s say that your eyes are open and you’re ready to do something about it. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
- Test your tap water. At least once a year, get a water-quality report to find out what’s in your water.
- Find the right filter. Not all filters are the same-that’s why it helps to know what’s in your water, so you can match it up with the right filter. To get rid of chlorine, look for NSF/ANSI Standard 46, which means the filter has passed a test to remove chlorine. One study suggests 0.2-µm filters are more effective than those with larger pore sizes.
- Choose safe household cleaners. If you’re piling on Tilex in your shower, expect to inhale toxic fumes! Choose safer shower cleaners without harmful ingredients.
- Choose safer personal care products. Shampoos and body washes can also contain ingredients that can mix with the chlorine in your water and create toxic by-products. Take my Ingredients to Avoid list with you when you go shopping.
- Keep your shower area ventilated. Turn on the fan and open a window if it’s warm enough.
Have you tried a shower filter? Let us know what you think!
- “Chlorine, Cancer, and Heart Disease.” WaterWarning.com. http://www.waterwarning.com/chlorinefact.php.
- “Our Children at Risk: The 5 Worst Environmental Threats to Their Health.” Natural Resources Defense Council Report. http://www.nrdc.org/health/kids/ocar/chap7.asp.
- MacDonald WD, Pelletier CA, Gasper DL. Practical methods for the microbial validation of sterilizing-grade filters used in aseptic processing. J Parenter Sci Technol 1989;43:266-70.
Photo courtesy JaySeven via Flickr.com.