I was honestly shocked when I read this research and I’m sure it will shock you too. Putting it simply – chlorine and other contaminants in the water you use to shower, when heated, create steam (essentially gas) that is detrimental to your body – and you’re inhaling it.
This chlorine and other contaminants are absorbed through the skin. However, when inhaling them through the steam of your hot shower, the entry into your body is much more effective – faster and more concentrated.The effects of chlorine steam (effectively Chloroform) have been suggested to be quite detrimental. I’ve written previously about purifying the water that we drink, and research is showing it can be just as important to purify the water that you shower in.
What the Researchers and Others Reveal
“Conservative calculations indicate that taking a shower exposes you to the equivalent of consuming an additional two litres of chlorinated water each day. Inhalation and skin absorption of chloroform and chlorine by-products is greatest in the shower, where these gases are vaporised.” (1)
“While the purity of our drinking water is of primary importance, contaminants and chlorine by-products also enter our bodies through the skin via the water in which we bathe. Also, our lungs absorb toxic fumes from the gaseous chlorine by-products that are released in a steamy shower. Chlorine in shower water can strip protein from our hair and skin causing dry, irritated eyes, itchy skin and dandruff. (2)
“Taking long hot showers is a health risk, according to research presented last week in Anaheim California, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Showers, and to a lesser extent baths-lead to a greater exposure to toxic chemicals. The chemicals evaporate out of the water and are inhaled. They can also spread through the house and be inhaled by others. House holders can receive 6 to 100 times more of the chemical by breathing the air around showers and baths than they would by drinking the water.” (3)
“A long hot shower can be dangerous. The toxic chemicals are inhaled in high concentrations.” (4)
“On one hand, chlorination has freed civilization form the constant dangers of waterborne epidemics. On the other hand in the mid-70’s scientists discovered that chlorination could create carcinogens in water.” 80% of the population drinks chlorinated water. There was a higher incidence of cancer of the oesophagus, rectum, breast, and larynx and of Hodgkin’s Disease among those drinking chlorinated surface waters.” Volatile organics can evaporate from water in a shower or bath. Conservative calculations indicate that inhalation exposure can be as significant as exposure from drinking the water, that is, one can be exposed to just as much by inhalation during a shower as by drinking 2 litres of water a day. People who shower frequently could be exposed through ingestion, inhalation and/or dermal absorption. (5)
“Showering is suspected as the primary cause of elevated levels of chloroform in nearly every home because of the chlorine in the water.” (6)
“A Professor of Water Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh claims that exposure to vaporised chemicals in the water supplied through showering, bathing, and inhalation is 100 times greater than through drinking water. As chlorine is added to kill pathogenic microorganisms the highly reactive chlorine combines with fatty acids and carbon fragments to form a variety of toxic compounds, which comprise about 30% of the chlorination by-products.” (7)
The National Academy of Science estimates that 200 – 1000 people die in the United States from cancers caused by ingesting the contaminants in the water. The major health threat posed by these pollutants is far more likely to be from their inhalations as air pollutants. The reason that emissions are high is because water droplets dispersed by the shower head have a larger surface-to-value ratio than water streaming into the bath.” (8)
What Should You Do?
I must confess that when my wife insisted we have a filter installed in our shower, I found it reduced the pressure in the shower. So in the winter when I wanted a nice hot shower I would sneak downstairs to our other bathroom and have a nice strong hot shower. I have since repented after discovering the research on this topic. I always knew that it wasn’t ideal to shower in chlorinated water but I didn’t realise just how detrimental it was. I thought this is just a little negative action and I’m doing lots of other positive things that offset it. But the more I did the research on it the more I was converted and convinced.
No more long hot strong showers for me, I will take the alternative thank you very much.
You can purchase these shower head filters from a number of different places. I recommend the Watershop that has stores in Cammeray or Stanmore (both in NSW). If you want to get the best effect then obviously you need to use the best products. The filter does need changing every 1-2 years depending on how many people are in the house. Usually if there is 2 people, it’s every 2 years, if there is 4 people it’s every 1 year.
To Your Health,
1. Archer, John. The Water you drink: How Safe is it? Pure Water Press, 1996.
2. Meyerowitz, Steve. Water: The Ultimate Cure. Book Publishing Company, 2000.
3. New Scientist-18 September 1986.
4. Andelman, J., “Did you know that…a long hot shower”, Bottom Line, 1987 Aug. 15.
5. Gabler, P., Is your water safe to drink?, Consumer Reports Book, 1987.
6. Wallace, L., Environmental Protection Agency
7. Duff, Conacher and Assoc. “The Nader Report-Troubled waters on tap”, 1988 Jan. Center for Study of Responsive Law.
8. Raloff, J., Toxic showers and baths, Science News; 130:190.