What's really inside our shiny showerheads that provide us with clear, warm, and purifying water?
Well, it turns out they could be lined with a bacteria-filled slime, and it may have negative impacts on our health. Remember not all bacteria is harmful, but according to a new study, there may be one to look out for—Mycobacterium.
A team from the University of Colorado at Boulder tested DNA from 656 household showers in the United States and in Europe. They found mycobacteria was more prevalent in showerheads served by municipal tap water than well water, and overall more abundant in U.S. homes. They speculate this geographical discrepancy could be because mycobacteria are resistant to the chlorine-based disinfects commonly used in the United States.
After mapping out the places where this bacteria was flourishing, they found the bacteria growths lined up with areas where a nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease is quite prevalent. This could suggest that showerheads play a role in transmitting the disease.
The hope is this research spurs further investigation into our water treatment systems and the materials used in our plumbing to figure out how we can mitigate health risks from bad bacteria.
While this may seem unsettling, it's important to remember every day we are exposed to tons of bacteria and a lot ends up on our skin—and it's not all bad. Actually, we need bacteria on our skin, as it communicates to our immune system when something is wrong. A healthy and balanced microbial community is crucial for healthy digestion—the concern is when dangerous bacteria take over.
There is no need to stop showering or throw away your shower head, but if you are inclined to make a change, consider a plastic showerhead which researchers found to have fewer mycobacteria. But, "there is definitely no reason to fear showering" team lead, Noah Fierer, tells EurerkAlert! Chances are, your showerhead microbiota is just fine.
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