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Showerheads may harbor dangerous bacteria

Thursday, October 07, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: showerheads, bacteria, health news

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(NaturalNews) Shower heads serve as a breeding ground for a bacterium that may cause dangerous respiratory illness, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"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," lead researcher Norman Pace said.

M. avium rarely infects healthy people, but people with compromised immune systems such as the elderly, pregnant women or those suffering from or fighting off another disease are more vulnerable to the bacteria. If it successfully colonizes the lungs, M. avium can produce tiredness, malaise, weakness, shortness of breath and a dry, persistent cough.

In the current study, researchers tested swab samples from 50 different showerheads from nine cities in seven different U.S. states. They found that levels of M. avium on the average showerhead were 100 times higher than the average found in tap water. Thirty percent of shower heads tested contained M. avium levels high enough to pose a risk of infection.

The researchers concluded that M. avium forms a biofilm on the inside of the showerhead, with plastic shower heads more likely to develop this problem than metal ones. Water emerging from these contaminated shower heads may deliver an infectious load directly to a person's face, and contaminated droplets might also aerosolize in the shower, allowing a person to inhale the bacteria into the lungs.

Rates of M. avium infection have been on the rise in recent years, and the study authors suggest that a shift from baths to showers might be partially to blame.

Other diseases known to be spread by showers include chest infections and the variety of pneumonia known as Legionnaire's disease. Hot tubs and spa baths may also serve as transmission routes for respiratory infections.

Sources for this story include: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8254206.st...

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