Breaking news from the “Great–one more thing to worry about” file! Microbiologists have looked inside showerheads and found that the dark and damp crannies provide perfect conditions for the growth of bacterial film. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at showerheads in nine cities and found that they harbor colonies of Mycobacterium avium in particular, a type of microbe that can cause lung ailments. “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,” says lead author Norman Pace [CNET].
These findings may sound alarming, but the researchers stress that bacteria is everywhere–in the air we breathe and the water we drink–and for the most part, these microbes pose little danger. Study coauthor Leah Feazel says of the shower findings: “This really shouldn’t concern average, healthy people. The main concern is for people who are immune-compromised” [Reuters]. People with AIDS or other immune system disorders should consider getting metal showerheads, which harbor less bacteria than plastic, and changing them often. Anybody else who feels uncomfortable with the idea of a bacterial shower has a couple of options–they can let the shower run for 30 seconds or so before stepping in to flush out some of the microbes, or they can take a bath.
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Image: flickr / stevendepolo