Most of us know the importance of drinking enough water and filtering it to avoid harmful chemicals or contaminants, but did you recognize that shower water can be just as harmful (if not more so) than drinking water?
What’s in Shower Water?
Unfiltered shower water can contain an array of chemicals like chlorine (which we try to avoid whenever possible) also as bacteria and fungus from the shower head.
The skin is much more than just a covering for the body. It is the most important organ and is liable for important functions like vitamin d creation and synthesis. It also has the ability to absorb much of what it comes in contact with and we are learning that it has its own unique and important microbiome!
This is why topical magnesium oil works so well and why sunlight is so important.
It is also why a shower filter is so vital:
Chlorine is effective at killing pathogens within the water, but the properties that make it ready to do that may affect the skin microbiome and therefore the delicate balance of bacteria on the skin.
These are some of the biggest risks related to the chemicals in shower water (and the reasons I use a shower filter):
1. We May Absorb More Chlorine Through Showering than Through Drinking Water
It may seem counterintuitive, but showering in chlorinated water can cause more chlorine absorption than drinking chlorinated water. This is because we typically shower at warm temperatures, which makes absorption easier and since this water is coming in touch with such an outsized area of the body. In fact, research shows that the chlorine in shower (or bath) water can easily enter the bloodstream as it has a low molecular weight and may easily pass into the body.
Chlorine can also interact with other matter in the water to form harmful byproducts like trihalomethanes (THMs). One of these trihalomethanes is chloroform, which I’m familiar with from my childhood days of reading Nancy Drew mysteries, as it was often used by criminals to cause victims to pass out. Thankfully, it isn’t found in high enough amounts in shower water to cause that severe of a problem, but it certainly isn’t good to come into contact with regularly.
Warm air and water also open lungs, making inhalation of those chemicals easier as also. In fact, a study found a better than normal concentration of chloroform within the lungs of study participants after a warm shower.
Chemicals absorbed through the skin can enter the blood stream quickly and have an incredible impact on the body. This is great when it involves to things like topical magnesium that we would like to enter the body quickly and in large enough amounts, but not so good when it comes to harmful disinfectant byproducts. This study even showed a greater lifetime risk of cancer and other problems from bathing or showering in chlorinated water than from drinking it.
2. Shower Water Releases Chemicals into the Air within the Home
There are some obvious offenders of indoor air-pollution:
Scented candles release harmful fragrances and paraffin into the air and are a major source of indoor air pollution. Air fresheners and cleaning chemicals also are major offenders, but many of us don’t realize that shower water is also high-up on this list!
The heat of shower water can cause chemicals to vaporize and be released into the air at higher amounts than they’re even present within the water itself. The EPA found significant and detectable levels of THMs and other byproducts in indoor air as a result of bath and shower water.
3. Chemicals in Shower Water may Cause Harm to the Skin Microbiome & Irritate Skin
As I already mentioned, the microbiome isn’t limited to the gut. While the importance of beneficial bacteria within the gut is becoming much more well known, there are lesser known “biomes” on the body, including the mouth and skin.
Logically, showering in a disinfecting agent like chlorine that is chemically tested to reduce bacteria within the water may have a tremendous impact on the skin biome. Many of the consequences on the beneficial bacteria aren’t visible and lots of people don’t seem to possess any noticeable effects, though some experience dry skin, eczema or irritation.
4. Chemicals Present in Shower Water are Linked to Cancer & other Health Problems
As a follow up to the primary point, some of the chemicals present within the water supply are linked to varied sorts of cancers. These chemicals can be problematic enough when consumed in water but are even more harmful when inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Of course, correlation does not equal causation, but in this case, the evidence is strong enough to at least warrant caution and further study. At the very least, I find it worth taking precautions against easy-to-eliminate sources of chlorine exposure by using things like drinking water filters and shower filters.
5. Chloramines could also be Even more Harmful than Chlorine
Another chemical often utilized in the water supply is chloramine, a mix of chlorine and ammonia. As you’ll imagine, it has its risks also and should be even more irritating to the skin and lungs that just chlorine.
Unfortunately, many filters that remove chlorine do not easily remove chloramines, so it is important to research options and address both chemicals when considering shower filters.
As I explained during this post, certain sorts of Vitamin C can remove chloramines and may be added to a shower to ger rid of chlorine and chloramines within the water, though this is certainly more difficult to add to a shower.
Types of Shower Filters
There are various sorts of shower filters that are effective against chlorine and chloramines and I’ve personally tried several over the years. Filters may use charcoal/carbon, Vitamin C or KDF (kinetic degradation fluxion). There are pros and cons to each type of filter, including (from least effective to most effective):
- Carbon filters: Simple carbon filters like the popular Sprite filters are effective at removing chlorine (though not as effective against chloramines) and with a caveat: They don’t work very well at warm temperatures. In fact, they become less effective the warmer the water gets, making them simpler effective for drinking water filtration (usually filtered cool) and fewer effective for shower filters. They are a budget friendly option which will be helpful, especially for those that don’t take really hot showers.
- KDF filters: Another relatively budget friendly option, a KDF filter is extremely effective at removing chlorine, but not as effective at removing chloramines. These could also be a good option in places where chloramines aren’t used in the water supply.
- Vitamin C Filters: My favorite option for removing both chlorine and chloramines. Vitamin C creates a chemical reaction that completely changes chlorine and chloramines, rendering them harmless. These sorts of filters remove both chlorine and chloramines almost completely and may also benefit the skin. In fact, many people report skin and hair improvements after using these filters. I’ve personally tried the Sonaki brand vitamin C filter with great results and therefore the only downside is that it does require replacement cartridges every few months.
Unfortunately, I’ve never found a shower filter that completely removes chlorine and chloramines (though some, like the Vitamin C filters, remove 90+%). The only filter I’ve found that seems to completely remove chloramines, chlorine (as well as most fluoride and other contaminants in shower water is a complete whole house filter (like this one).
How to Filter Bath Water
For a long time, I filled my children’s bath from the shower head so that the water would run through the filter to remove the chlorine before finding a better way. There is a bath dechlorinator that removes chlorine (and some of the chloramine) in bath water in just a couple of minutes. This is the one I’ve used.
Shower Filters: Bottom Line
Filtering shower water is one simple and comparatively inexpensive step which will make a big difference in reducing chlorine and other chemical exposure in the home. Some people (like me) seem to be much more sensitive to chlorine and notice the effects more readily, but these chemicals affect all of us on a cellular level.
Using a simple shower filter or bath dechlorinator is a simple way to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals in bath and shower water.