Is Your Shower Head Making You Sick?

Is Your Shower Head Making You Sick?

Taking a shower might leave you feeling reinvigorated – but it could be bad for your health.

Nearly a third of shower heads harbor potentially dangerous bacteria to be sprayed over their owners, a study has found.

Scientists say the slime that builds up inside a shower head is a breeding ground for bugs linked to a host of diseases.

The slime protects the germs from the chlorine in the water, which is meant to eliminate them.

In tests, 30 per cent of shower heads contained Mycobacterium avium, a bug linked to lung disease.

Professor Norman Pace, who led the study at the University of Colorado at Boulder, 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.’

Atypical mycobacteria are a very common group of microbes that surround us in the natural environment all the time. They are found in the water and soil. However, they can also be found in the air when they become aerosolized into droplets of water small enough to enter the tiny alveoli of the lungs such as what occurs during showering.

Normal exposure to atypical mycobacteria in the environment would normally be in very small doses. In these natural situations, risk of infection is very small to nonexistent and would serve to boost immunity rather than cause infection.

However, when a shower head is contaminated with it, exposure can be frequent, intense, and completely overwhelming to the biological systems. This is especially true for young children whose immune systems are not yet fully developed.

Is Your Shower Head Making You Sick? NTM Could Be The Answer

A disease called NTM may be spread through water from contaminated shower heads.

What is NTM?
NTM stands for nontuberculous mycobacteria

Bacteria similar to tuberculosis (TB)

Spread through environment, not person to person

Cure rate is only about 50%

Symptoms of NTM

Chronic or recurring cough


Weight loss

Lack of appetite

Night sweats

Loss of energy

Where is NTM found?

NTM bacteria are abundant in soil and water

NTM can live in the shower head – soap/calcium build-up may also contain NTM

Water droplets and steam in showers can carry the bacteria and be inhaled while showering

Soil particles containing NTM can be inhaled when soil is stirred

NTM Prevention

Clean your showerhead by soaking in vinegar or water

Replace showerheads periodically as needed

Set water heater to 140° (use caution to avoid scalding)

Remove the shower head completely

Take baths instead of showers

Avoid steam rooms, hot tubs, etc. where steam or droplets with bacteria particles could be inhaled

Wear a mask and gloves while gardening



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