You shower often to cleanse yourself, clear your mind, and relieve fatigue from your daily grind. A healthy and pleasant shower experience does indeed provide plenty of benefits for your body and mind. Other than enhancing your personal hygiene, your warm, steamy showers boost cognitive function, increase blood circulation, relieve stress, improve your mood, and lower your blood pressure.
While a healthy shower experience enhances your wellbeing, showering in unhealthy, contaminated water harms your health. Regular, unfiltered water is loaded with contaminants and toxic chemicals that trigger a variety of diseases and health issues. Toxic chemicals such as chlorine and its byproducts in your shower water cause respiratory disease, reproductive disorder, premature aging, and various types of cancer.
What is Chlorine?
Chlorine is a chemical substance that has powerful antimicrobial properties. Chlorine is commonly used as a disinfectant to kill pathogens to minimize the transmission of infectious diseases. The widespread use of chlorine as an antimicrobial agent has indeed prevented innumerable deaths caused by transmissible diseases.
While a powerful and efficient disinfectant, chlorine is a toxic and poisonous chemical that triggers a variety of adverse health effects upon exposure. Chlorine exposure can occur through touching, ingesting, and inhaling substances that contain chlorine. Common routes of chlorine exposure include contact with household cleaning and bleaching products, swimming pool water, and your regular, unfiltered tap water.
Why is Chlorine Added to Water?
Chlorine is widely used in the public water system to kill harmful microbes that cause deadly, infectious diseases. Water chlorination produces water that is clean and safe for human use and consumption. The addition of chlorine to the public water system has eradicated waterborne diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and dysentery in the developed world.
Although water chlorination has saved countless lives, the addition of chlorine to the public water system results in the production of harmful chlorine byproducts. Toxic chlorine byproducts in your water enter your body and damage your cells, leading to devastating health consequences.
The Health Risks of Chlorine and its Byproducts in Your Shower Water
Once added to water, chlorine reacts with the natural organic matter present in the water, producing chlorine byproducts, such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids. Trihalomethanes are toxic chemicals that destroy your cells upon contact, causing cellular damage that leads to diverse types of diseases.
While showering, your body’s trihalomethane absorption is accelerated and enhanced. During a hot shower, the heat opens your skin’s pores and vaporizes the trihalomethanes in your shower water into the air. As a result, trihalomethanes enter your body through dermal absorption and inhalation.
Showering with chlorinated water inflicts more harm to your health than drinking chlorinated water. Studies have shown that blood concentrations of trihalomethanes are significantly higher after a shower compared to drinking chlorinated water. Trihalomethane concentrations in your blood can increase by five to fifteen folds after a shower.
Once inside your body, trihalomethanes produce free radicals, causing extensive cellular damage. Frequent exposure to high concentrations of trihalomethanes during a shower damages your cells’ DNA, wreaking havoc on your health.
Trihalomethanes’ destructive effects have been linked with various health disorders and diseases, such as respiratory disease, reproductive and developmental disorders, and bladder, breast, colon, and rectal cancer.
The Adverse Effects of Chlorine Byproducts on Respiratory Health
During a warm, steamy shower, your hot shower water vaporizes chlorine and its chemical byproducts into the air. As you breathe, you will inhale some of these chemicals deep into your respiratory system. Chlorine and trihalomethane chemicals are irritants that can trigger respiratory diseases such as asthma or aggravate asthma symptoms.
Many studies have found a positive association between chronic chlorine exposure and respiratory disease. An Italian study conducted by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia found people working in an indoor swimming pool had a higher risk of developing asthma compared to people working in areas without chlorine exposure.
Trihalomethanes’ Adverse Effects on Reproductive and Developmental Health
Frequent exposure to trihalomethanes has been linked with reduced fertility, and increased risk of early-term miscarriages, fetal growth retardation, and congenital disorders in both animals and humans. Several animal studies have found trihalomethane chemicals cause miscarriages, delays in fetal development, and birth defects.
A recent study on humans found high concentrations of bromodichloromethane (BDCM), a trihalomethane chemical common in chlorinated water, increases the risk of early-term miscarriage in pregnant women. Exposure to trihalomethanes during pregnancy also retards fetal development and contributes to low birth weight in infants.
Trihalomethane chemicals in water also harm men’s reproductive health. A Chinese-American study conducted jointly by Harvard University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China found trihalomethane chemicals in water decreased semen quality and sperm count in young, healthy men.
Trihalomethanes and Cancer
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified trihalomethane chemicals bromoform and chloroform as “probable human carcinogens.” Several studies examining the effects of chlorine byproducts on cancer development have consistently found trihalomethane chemicals in water increase the risk of bladder, rectal, and colon cancer.
Trihalomethanes have also been linked with causing breast cancer. A study conducted in Connecticut to assess the health risks of trihalomethanes found cancerous breast tissue had 60% more chlorine byproducts compared to healthy, non-cancerous breast tissue.
How to Remove Chlorine and Trihalomethanes from Your Shower Water
To create a safer and healthier shower experience, you must purify your shower water of toxic chemicals and contaminants that ravage your health and trigger various diseases. To purify your shower water of chemicals and contaminants, you must install a shower filter in your bathroom. A shower filter is a water purification unit that you fix in your bathroom to improve the quality of your shower water.
There are many different styles and types of shower filters on the market. When buying a shower filter, make sure the shower filter is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or uses water filtration mediums and technologies certified by the NSF for removing chlorine and trihalomethanes from your shower water.
The most effective water filter mediums for eliminating chlorine and trihalomethanes from your shower water are KDF and carbon filters. KDF and carbon water filters use different methods to clear away toxic chemicals from your shower water.
Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) Filters
Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) filters are NSF-certified for removing chlorine from your water. KDF filters contain a copper-zinc medium that clear away chlorine from your shower water using an electrochemical reaction between the filter and chlorine.
During the electrochemical reaction, electrons are transferred between the KDF filter and chlorine, producing harmless chloride ions as a result. This results in the elimination of chlorine atoms from your shower water.
Carbon filters, on the other hand, remove chlorine and trihalomethanes from your water though a chemical reaction called adsorption. Carbon filters, such as granulated activated carbon (GAC) and coconut shell carbon, are the most efficient water filters for eliminating trihalomethanes from your water. Carbon filters are EPA and NSF certified for purifying your water of chlorine and trihalomethanes.
Carbon filters clear away chlorine and trihalomethanes from your shower water by attracting and trapping these chemicals to their large surface area. As these chemicals are trapped, pure water molecules are allowed to pass through the carbon filter, reducing the amount of chlorine and trihalomethanes in your shower water.
If you want to eliminate both chlorine and trihalomethanes from your shower water, you must buy a shower filter that contains both KDF and carbon filters. KDF filters are specialized to remove chlorine, while carbon filters eliminate both chlorine and trihalomethanes from your water. For maximal contaminant removal from your water, look for a shower filter that combines both of these water filtration mediums.
Showering is a cleansing, refreshing, and relaxing ritual. A healthy shower routine provides plenty of mental and physical benefits. While showering in pure water has several health benefits, showering with contaminated water fills your body with toxic chemicals that wreak havoc on your health.
To minimize toxic chemical absorption and inhalation during your showers, install a shower filter in your bathroom to remove chlorine and trihalomethanes from your shower water. Shower filters purify your shower water of harmful contaminants, producing a healthier and more pleasant shower experience.