Taking Showers Connected To Chronic Lung Disease
Bacteria In Showerheads Causes Illness, Investigators Say.
For a good many of us, taking a hot shower is very enjoyable, a few minutes of relaxation at the end or the start of a busy day.
However, there is increasing evidence that this daily habit may be exposing you to potentially harmful aerosolized bacteria.
“Excuse me. This is something you get,” said Mary Lou Area, trying to catch her breath while coughing.
“And the coughing just kept worsening where I would cough up Tissues full of phlegm,” Area said.
Area was regaining her strength after recovering from pneumonia and originally wrote it off as symptoms that were lingering.
However, following weeks of coughing and reaching exhaustion, she visited a pulmonologist.
He said, “You may have acquired some really weird bacteria,” said Area. She was diagnosed with Nontuberculous Mycobacterium Complex or NTM.
NTM often affects women who are Caucasian, slim, approximately 50 years old and otherwise in good health.
They have one other thing in common. They all take showers.
Dr. Michael Iseman, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and National Jewish Health states “For a number of patients, I’m positively persuaded that showers are the primary source by which they were infected.”
Iseman specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of multi-drug-resistant or complicated tuberculosis or illness secondary to nontuberculous mycobacteria.
“We are seeing hundreds, close to approaching a thousand patients per year who have this complicated condition,” Iseman said.
Additionally, he has also seen evidence that showers are to blame.
“We’ve sampled the water system and the showerheads in these patient’s homes and have found, in a modest amount of cases, there’s a precise identity, a fingerprint if you will, with the exact organism from the patient’s lungs/sputum sample to the organism in the showerhead,” said Iseman.
Even more evidence connecting showers to NTM at the lab of Professor Norman Pace at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Pace stated “The matter you see on this showerhead is indeed bacteria” “NTM pulmonary disease is probably more common in our communities and more heavily under-diagnosed than we all think.” Professor Pace and his graduate students led an investigation that determined 30 percent of showerheads contain significant levels bacteria that cause disease.
“This buildup that people usually think is soap scum or calcium deposits, is really biological,” said researcher and grad student, Kim Ross.
In other words, that white stuff is harboring some living bacteria.
All of us are exposed to harmless bacteria on a daily basis. However, in the shower, your respiratory system may be directly exposed to possibly harmful bacteria.
You inhale that steam -like fog in the shower that has microscopic droplets that contains whatever is in the water.
This includes bacteria that are breeding in your showerhead and household pipes
“I positively believe I got this from my shower head,” said Area of her NTM diagnosis.
Area stated she stood in a steaming hot shower for up to 30 minutes before she was diagnosed with NTM.
Area said she will be taking multiple antibiotics for years to come as treatment and had a portion of her lung removed because of the disease.
She is wishing someone will hear about her story, change their habits and get help.
When Dr. Iseman was asked “Do you think this is something we will be hearing more about in the coming years?” “I am heavily persuaded and believe this disease will be a significant public health problem within the decade,” he replied.
All the experts here agree, there is enough preliminary evidence and research to promote further study.
The issue is money for funding.
There are currently efforts engaged to get the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health and Prevention to participate in more aggressive awareness and research campaigns.
Meanwhile, the experts recommend removing and soaking your shower heads in germ-killing cleaning agents or bleach as part of a cleaning routine.
If this does not clean your shower head , Pace said throw it out and replace it, but remember even a new shower head will regrow bacteria eventually.
Increasing your water heater temperature to 140 degrees will help kill harmful bacteria, but do this with extreme caution since it will also increase the risk of scalding.
Additional advice: completely remove the shower head and use the water straight from the pipe and avoid hot tubs, steam rooms, or any environment where potentially harmful bacteria water droplets and particles could be inhaled.