Is Your Shower or Bath Water Making You Sick?

Most people regard a hot shower or bath as one of life’s little pleasures. However, what many people don’t realize is the danger of chlorine or chloramines in the water. If you use unfiltered water, every time you step into a hot, steamy bath or shower, your body soaks up chlorine or chloramines like a sponge and your lungs absorb their vapors. You absorb more chlorine or chloramine when you bathe than you do from your drinking water.

What Is Chlorine?

Chlorine is a poison that attacks organic matter, like bacteria in the water. When chlorine enters the body as a result of breathing, swallowing or skin contact, it reacts with water to produce acids. These acids are corrosive and can damage cells in the body on contact. Most harmful chlorine exposures are the result of inhalation, especially while showering or soaking in a hot tub of water. It is harmful to your hair, skin, eyes, nose and mouth membranes and lungs. Chlorine leaves your hair brittle and dry, burns your eyes and makes your skin dry, flaky and itchy.

Health effects can begin within seconds to minutes. Following chlorine exposure, the most common symptoms are airway irritation, wheezing, difficulty breathing, sore throat, cough or irritation of the skin or eyes. The severity of health effects depend upon the route of exposure, the dose and the duration of exposure to chlorine.

Chlorine byproducts can also affect health, such as Trihalomethanes (THM). Trihalomethanes are formed as a by-product predominantly when chlorine is used to disinfect water for drinking and bathing. THMs represent one group of chemicals generally referred to as disinfection by-products (DBP). They result from the reaction of chlorine and/or bromine with organic matter present in the water being treated. The THMs produced have been associated through epidemiological studies with some adverse health effects. They can be absorbed into the body through the skin or by inhalation. When THMs are absorbed through the skin or into the lungs, they hold stronger carcinogenic properties because they aren’t detoxified through the liver.

Although chlorine is universally used to disinfect water, it is not safe for drinking, showering or bathing.

“Chlorine is so dangerous” according to biologist and chemist Dr. Herbert Schwartz,” that it should be banned. Putting chlorine in the water is like starting a time bomb. Cancer, heart trouble, premature senility, both mental and physical are conditions attributable to chlorine treated water supplies. It is making us grow old before our time by producing symptoms of ageing such as hardening of the arteries.”

What Is Chloramine?

Chloramine is a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, which is added to the water of many cities as a substitute for free chlorine. It is often referred to in the plural as “chloramines,” because it can take on a number of forms according to the pH and mineral content of the water.

At first, scientists knew only that chloramine didn’t produce the same byproducts chlorine did. But over time they learned that it could produce worrisome byproducts of its own, including chemicals called nitrosamines.

“Nitrosamines are the compounds that people warned you about when they told you you shouldn’t be eating those nitrite-cured hot dogs,” Sedlak says. “They’re about a thousand times more carcinogenic than the disinfection byproducts that we’d been worried about with regular old chlorine.” — David Sedlak from the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

What about Fluoride?

Many misguided water treatment centers add fluoride to water, either in the form of Sodium Fluoride or the radioactive toxic waste Fluorosilic Acid. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss why fluoride is undesirable, but many people do not want it in their water.

Fluoride is easy to remove from drinking water and whole house systems because the fluoride dwells long enough in a sufficient amount of media to adsorb fluoride. However, with shower and bath filters there are three problems that prevent removing fluoride from the water: 1) not enough media, 2) not enough dwell time, and 3) hot water can interfere with adsorption and can compromise the life of the media.

Also, it is questionable about whether or not the fluoride molecule is small enough to be absorbed by the skin — with some forms of fluoride the molecule is too small, but there is no way to know which form is used by the water treatment plant — possibly making the need to remove fluoride from shower and bath water unnecessary. However, small children tend to drink bath water, and drinking fluoridated water is definitely a problem, so in that case, a whole house fluoride removing system should be considered. If you are concerned about removing fluoride, see CuZn’s Fluoride Water Systems.

How to Remove Chlorine and Chloramines from Bathing Water

While carbon is one of the most effective ways to remove chlorine, unfortunately, most carbon is not designed for the hot water temperatures of shower and bath water. The problem is that hot water causes the carbon to expand, and when carbon expands it releases contaminants stored in its pores. Also, water above 94 degrees can cause the carbon to be less effective and can shorted its life, so if you ever run hot water through a carbon filter, make sure to flush it immediately with cold water. Another drawback to most carbon filters is that they are not very effective at removing chloramines.

The types of water purifier medias that work great in hot water up to 115 degrees are the following:

  • KDF 55 for removing or reducing chlorine and water-soluble heavy metals and controlling scale, bacteria and algae.
  • KDF 85 for removing or reducing chloramines, iron and hydrogen sulfide and water-soluble heavy metals and controlling scale, bacteria and algae.
  • Catalytic Carbon retains conventional carbon’s ability to adsorb organic contaminants including chlorine, pesticides, disinfection byproducts and ammonia, but it also possesses a greatly enhanced capacity to remove or significantly reduce chloramine levels.
  • Chloragon is a non-carbon media that removes more chlorine at a wider temperature range than any other shower filtration media, except KDF. This media is used exclusively with Sprite shower filters.
  • Pharmaceutical Grade Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has recently been included in AWWA (American Water Works Association) Standard (AWWA, 2005b) as one of the methods for dechlorination of disinfected water mains. There are no NSF International certified point of use devices utilizing Vitamin C, however SFPUC (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission) determined that 1000 mg of Vitamin C removes chloramine and chlorine completely in a medium size bathtub. This media is used in the VitaShower and VitaBath filters.

The most effective method to remove a broader range of water contaminates beyond just chlorine and chloramine is to combine medias, such as is done with CuZn Water Filters. For chlorine removal, CuZn combines KDF 55 with Catalytic Carbon and for chloramine removal they combine KDF 85 and Catalytic Carbon, like in the TurboShower filter and Bath Ball™ filter. . Sprite Shower filters combine KDF 55 with Chloragon (Sprite does not have a chloramine removing option).

How Fast Do Water Filters Work?

Usually, you can notice a difference in the water quality with your first bath or shower. Regardless of which brand you use, the first thing you will notice is softer water when you shampoo your hair or lather soap and skin that is less dry. As a result of bathing in purer, chlorine-free or chloramine-free water, you may notice:

  • You breathe easier because the harsh vapors, which are caused from the hot water and inhaled in the lungs and transferred into the blood stream, are removed.
  • Reduction of allergy symptoms.
  • Alleviation of dry itchy skin and healthier looking skin.
  • Luster and natural shine returning to your hair, leaving it silky and smooth. Shower filters are great for color-treated hair.
  • Reduction of scale buildup and spotting due to softer, pH balanced water.

But, most importantly, you will no longer have to worry about breathing or absorbing contaminants that can diminish your health.

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One thought on “Is Your Shower or Bath Water Making You Sick?”

  1. Yes, as you said, we have enough reasons to have a shower head water filter. My hair and skin are sensitive and such a shower water filter can protect my skin and hair. So great.

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