Warm, wet, dark, and inches from your face – this juicy bathroom gizmo may host nasty bacteria colonies
HealthLine | Mycobacteria are capable of causing serious lung infections — and showerheads in particular have been implicated in transmission of the disease.
The organisms exist naturally in soil and water, but infection occurs through inhalation.
“The concern about the showerhead is that it does what we call aerosolize, so it makes it in the air. We just breathe in the shower, and you would potentially be breathing in these organisms,” said Dr. Barbara Keber, MD.
Symptoms of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infection include chronic or recurring cough, weight loss, fever, and loss of energy.
Beware the biofilms
According to a recent study by the American Society for Microbiology, mycobacteria were abundantly found in a samples of biofilms — the slimy collections of microorganisms — living in showerheads across the United States.
Researchers analyzed biofilms from 656 households across the United States and Europe and found that the type of water and use of chlorine disinfectants affected the types of bacteria prevalent in showerheads.
Well water had lower chances of mycobacteria when compared to municipal water.
Metal showerheads also contained more mycobacterium than plastic ones.
“We found significant correlations between the abundances of these mycobacteria found in showerheads sampled across the United States and NTM lung disease prevalence,” wrote the study authors.
How to get rid of the bacteria
To take preventive measures in your home, treat showerheads like other fixtures in your bathroom. Clean them at semi-regular intervals and replace when necessary.
You can easily and inexpensively clean your showerhead by soaking it in a solution of white vinegar and water. White vinegar is acidic enough that it can work as an antibacterial agent. [If you can’t easily remove your showerhead for cleaning, fill a plastic baggie with white vinegar and fit it around the showerhead; secure with a bread tie. – Editor] Read more.