Did You Forget Your Shower?

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

Did you know that water utilities have found 315 pollutants in tap water?1 Most of my patients are already drinking filtered or bottled water. But most haven’t thought about what happens when they shower.

For many of these pollutants, there are no federal guidelines. For example, in Philadelphia, officials found 56 drugs and chemicals in treated water. It included pain meds, statins, antibiotics, and medications for mental illness and heart problems.2

There is no reliable system in place to remove these pollutants.

Not only that, chlorine is added to water to kill bacteria. That’s a concern because chlorine breaks apart and recombines with pharmaceuticals and chemicals from things like lotions, shampoos, and makeup that wash down the drain.

When chlorine and these ingredients combine, it can be worse. Because it turns into things like chloroform.

Chloroform used to be used as anesthesia. No one uses it anymore because of the danger. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health considers chloroform a carcinogen. It causes liver, kidney, and thyroid tumors. One study links chloroform found in water to bladder and rectal cancer. They limit worker’s exposure to 2 ppm per 60 minutes.3

When you shower in this water, you breathe in the chloroform and absorb it through your skin.

Your lungs have a larger surface area than your skin. So when you inhale, you’re coating this large surface with these toxins. They’re immediately absorbed.

A good start to protect yourself is to filter your shower water. But it’s not the complete solution.

You can pick up a shower filter for under $100 at a home improvement store or online.

Filter manufacturers may give you a choice of what you filter. Look for one that removes chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and Trihalomethanes (THM’s).

VOC’s are man-made chemicals, fuel components, and byproducts. Formaldehyde is an example of a VOC.

THM’s are solvents, refrigerants, and byproducts. Chloroform is an example of a THM.

It’s a simple process to install. You’ll need a wrench and some plumber’s tape. Some shower filters completely replace the showerhead. Others you insert above the showerhead.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

  1. “National Water Database.” Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/home. Accessed 06 2010.
  2. Donn, J., Mendoza, M., Pritchard, J. “AN AP INVESTIGATION : Pharmaceuticals Found in Drinking Water.” Associated Press. 2010. http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/pharmawater_site/index.html
  3. “Chloroform.” US Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Accessed 06 2010.
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