Filtering Chlorinated Shower Water
- Can Skin Absorb Volatile Organic Compounds?
- Why Filter Shower Water?
- Quotes from Respected Authorities
- Removing Chlorine from Shower Water
Chlorinated Water and Unknown Hazards of the Shower
There is another side to the chlorine water story. When we return from a gym workout or a jogging session or a game of squash, not only are we thirsty but we usually shower or bathe. We have been taught that cleanliness and health go together, and indeed they do, when chemical-free water is used.
When chlorinated water is used, however, bathing may be much less healthy that we ever supposed. Gasses are as a rule less soluble in hot water, and when water is heated or the free chlorine content in water is greatly reduced, it allows chorine gas to escape into the air. When we have a hot shower or run a bath we can sometimes smell the chlorine released as it escapes from the hot water. In a confined shower recess, however, especially one with poor ventilation, the chlorine escapes from the water as we continue the hot shower and steadily increases in concentration in the air we breathe. The olfactory threshold for chlorine is about 3.5 PPM (parts per million) so when we can smell chlorine the concentration is already above this level. The lethal concentration for ten-minute exposure is about 600 PPM and we suggest that regularly taking hot showers with chlorinated water could pose a health risk.
Chlorine causes pulmonary edema, and it would seem likely that regular exposure to chlorine gas even at low levels such as in normal showering may reduce the oxygen transfer capacity of the lungs. This could be a critical factor for athletes and for others prone to heart failure. Another aspect to be considered is our skin. Our skin is an important protective barrier for our bodies. When we shower with chlorinated water we are essentially exposing our skin to a relatively large volume of a dilute chlorine solution. Some of this chlorine reacts with the oils in the skin to form chlorinated compounds and it is these compounds which may then be absorbed by the body. It seems very likely, considering strong oxidizing power off chlorine, that regular exposure to chlorinated water serves also to promote the aging process of the skin, not unlike extended exposure to sunlight. Moreover, chlorine may actually enhance the aging effects of ultraviolet radiation by reinforcing the process of cell deterioration.
Another skin factor to be considered with the destruction by chlorine is the natural bacteria balance on our skin. Our skin has an ecology, all of its own, which needs to be preserved in order to maintain healthy skin and its associated beauty.
Skin Absorbtion: Exposure Route for Volatile Organic Compounds
The more hydrated the skin, the greater the absorption. If the skin is hydrated (through perspiration or immersion in water) or if the contaminant compounds are in solution, diffusion and penetration will be enhanced.
Increased skin or water temperature will enhance skin absorption capacity proportionately. During swimming and bathing, it may be expected that greater hydration of skin surfaces will take place.
Any insult (i.e. sunburn) or injury (i.e. cuts, wounds, abrasions) to the outer layer of skin will lower its ability to act as a barrier against foreign substances. A history of skin disease such as psoriasis or eczema acts to lower the natural barrier of the outer skin layer, as do rashes, dermatitis, or any chronic skin condition.
Skin absorption rates vary with the different regions of the body. Underestimated is the case of whole body immersion during swimming or bathing. The epidermis of the hand represents a relatively greater barrier to penetration than many other parts of the body, including the scalp, forehead, abdomen, area in and around the ears, underarms, and genital area. Penetration through the genital area, in fact, is estimated to be 100% as compared to 8.56% for the forearm.
Other Routes of Entry
Other significant routes of absorption include oral, nasal, cheeks, and mouth cavity, and eye and ear areas. These routes have been underestimated in their ability to absorb contaminants during immersion in water. Inhalation serves as yet another route. In the case of swimming or bathing, the volatized chemicals are likely to gather near the surface of the water and are readily inhalable. In addition, water may be swallowed in these situations.
Absorption rates obtained from healthy adults will again tend to underestimate absorption for children or populations that are more sensitive.
Source: American Journal of Public Health 1984 74:479-484
Why filter Your Shower Water?
Chlorine is a toxic chemical. It is used in water treatment to reduce and kill forms of biological agents, such as bacteria and viruses found in water systems. Chlorine is harmful to you when you drink it and when it is absorbed into our skin and inhaled into your lungs when you shower. It has been estimated that the "shower steam" in your bathroom can contain up to 100 times the amount of chlorine than the water, because chlorine evaporates out of water at a relatively low temperature. If you bathe or shower in unfiltered tap water you are inhaling and absorbing chlorine into your body.
Conditions contributed to or aggravated by chlorine exposure:
· Respiratory Conditions (nose, throat, lungs, sinuses): Asthma, bronchitis
· Hair: Dry, brittle
· Skin: Dry, flaking, dandruff, itching, rashes (especially with infants and children)
· Eyes conditions
Chlorine is universally used to chemically disinfect water. It kills germs, bacteria and other living organisms. Chlorine readily passes through the cell wall and attaches to the fatty acids of the cell, disrupting the life sustaining functions. The human body is composed of billions of cells. Most people are aware that the quality of their drinking water can be improved by filtering their tap water or buying bottled water. However, many do not realize that they are addressing only a part of the problem.
One half of our daily chlorine exposure is from showering. Chlorine is not only absorbed through the skin, but also re-vaporized in the shower, inhaled into the lungs, and transferred directly into the blood system. In fact, the chlorine exposure from one shower is equal to an entire day's amount of drinking the same water.
Showering in Chlorinated Water: Quotes from Respected Authorities
Americans are becoming more aware of the contaminants in our nation's water supplies and many are installing water filters to purify their drinking water. Yet most continue to bathe and shower straight from the tap, unaware that inhaling unfiltered shower vapors (steam) is more harmful than actually drinking the water itself. During a shower, toxic chloroform evaporates into the surrounding air you breathe. In addition, The Center for Study of Responsive Law's, Troubled Water on Tap report, states that over 2,100 contaminants have been found in drinking water. Of those 2,100, 190 are known to cause adverse health effects. In total, 97 carcinogens, 82 mutagens and suspected mutagens (cause cell mutations), 23 tumor promoters and 28 acute and chronic toxic contaminants have been detected in U.S. drinking water. According to East West magazine, consumers should purchase shower head filters which remove chlorine and other contaminants to prevent exposure to chloroform [and other toxic substances]."
-Center for Study of Responsive Law, Consumers Research Magazine, East West, July 1989.
"A long, hot shower can be dangerous. The toxic chemicals are inhaled in high concentrations." - August 1987, Journal of Andelman, Ph. D.
"We conclude that skin absorption of contaminants in drinking water has been underestimated and that ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure."
-American Journal of Public Health, May, 1984, Vol. 74, No. 5
"Ironically, even the Chlorine widely used to disinfect water produces Carcinogenic traces. Studies indicate the suspect chemicals can also be inhaled and absorbed through the skin during showering and bathing."
- U. S. News & World Report - 29 July 1991, Is your Water Safe - The Dangerous State of Your Water
"Taking showers is a health risk, according to research presented last week in a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Showers - and to a lesser extent baths - lead to a greater exposure to toxic chemicals contained in water supplies than does drinking water. The chemicals evaporate out of the water and are inhaled. They can also spread through the house and be inhaled by others."
- New Scientist -18 September 1986, Ian Anderson
"Studies have documented the presence in the drinking water of many potentially toxic volatile organic chemicals (VOC's)- from chloroform and pesticides to carbon tetrachloride. Such findings have spurred investigations into the inhalation hazards these compounds may pose when released in the air during baths and showers. However, because shower and tub equipment, as well as other design features, differed widely in these experiments, air releases for a single VOC could vary up to 10-fold from one studied system to another." - John C. Little, Lawrence Berkeley (California) Laboratory, Science News, August 15, 1992
"The steamy air of a shower contains significant amounts of a least two cancer-causing chemicals that evaporate out of water." -Journal of Andelman, Professor of Water Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh
"Almost two decades have passed since known or suspected human carcinogens were first found in municipal water supplies. One of them, chloroform, produced by the chlorination process, exposes millions of Americans. The potential for a major public health problem is unquestionably there, and yet, progress has been slow." - Dr. Peter Isacson, M.D., Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Iowa College of Medicine
"Skin absorption of contaminant has been underestimated and ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure." - American Journal of-Public Health - Dr. Halina Brown
"Showering is suspected as the primary cause of elevated of chloroform in nearly every home because of the chlorine in the water. Chloroform [a known carcinogen] levels increase up to 100 times during a ten-minute shower in residential water" - Environmental Protection Agency - Dr. Lance Wallace
"I tell my friends to take quick, cold showers", said Julian B. Andelman, Professor of Water Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, who claimed that the longer and hotter the shower, the more chemicals build up in the air. - San Jose Mercury News, September 11, 1986
"Many investigators have reported on the toxicity and unexpected high penetration rates of volatile organic chemicals." - American Journal of Public Health
"A Professor of Water Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh claims that exposure to vaporized chemicals in the water supplies through showering, bathing, and inhalation is 100 greater than through drinking the water."
- The Nader Report, Troubled Waters on Tap - Center for Study of Responsive Law
"The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 200 to 1000 people die in the United States each year from cancers caused by ingesting the contaminants in water. The major health threat posed by these pollutants is far more likely to be from their inhalation as air pollutants. The reason that emissions are high is because water droplets dispersed by the shower head have a larger surface-to-value ratio than water streaming into the bath." - Science News-Vol. 130, Janet Raloff
How Filtration Removes Chlorine and Purifies Shower Water
The state-of-the-art technology that filters chlorine, sulfur, smell, rust water and traces of heavy metals in The Filter is multi-fold: KDF™ (copper-zinc) and Chlorgon™ (mineral salts).
The Filters are designed to use a replaceable cartridge that is easy to install, user-friendly, and earth-friendly.
In the presence of rushing water, the KDF media acts like poles of a battery, the copper becoming the cathode (negative pole) and the zinc becoming the anode (positive pole), thereby creating a minute electrical current. Because free (pure) chlorine is a very unstable compound, in the presence of KDF the chlorine molecule gives up its outermost electron, allowing it to immediately bond with the copper and zinc elements, thus forming harmless, chelatable body salts (cupric and zinc chlorides).
KDF™ is a compound made of copper and zinc, two dissimilar elements in a granular form that operates by the law of opposites. It effectively removes up to 99% of free chlorine, varying amounts of iron oxides, hydrogen sulfide and small amounts of lead and keeps the unit bacteriostatic.
CHLORGON‘ is a mineral salt that removes combined chlorine.
CHLORINE: It is a toxic, inorganic chemical that kills bacteria and living organic matter, including epidermal (skin) cells and cells within the body. It is a bleaching agent that causes dry skin, brittle hair and has been linked to colon and bladder cancer. When vaporized in a hot shower or bath, it is also an irritant to the lungs and mucous membranes.
HEAVY METALS: In the presence of the KDF media and the minute electrical current it generates, small traces of lead and larger amounts of iron oxides literally remove themselves from the water by bonding with the copper and zinc compound, similar to electro-plating. Iron and sulfur readily bond to the media, so much so that if there is an excess of these two elements in the water, the life span of the filter will be slightly shorter, resulting in the need for more frequent cartridge replacements.
BACTERIA: The KDF‘ media is an inhospitable host for E. Coli and Pseudemonas bacteria and will inhibit their growth within the filter. KDF‘ keeps the unit bacteriostatic.
Why KDF? Why Not Carbon?
As mentioned above, KDF is a bacteriostatic media. Carbon is not; it literally can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Also, in the presence of hot water, carbon tends to deteriorate, lose its adsorbent capacity, and may even "output" trapped contaminants. Conversely, KDF in the presence of hot water literally becomes catalyzed to perform more efficiently and does not release contaminants back into the water.
Increased Risks of Bladder Cancer by Drinking, Bathing or Swimming in Chlorinated Water
By The American Journal of Epidemiology, January 2007
The findings are the first to suggest that these chemicals can be harmful when they are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, as well as when they are ingested, Dr. Cristina M. Villanueva of the Municipal Institute of Medical Research in Barcelona, and colleagues note.
Chemicals, most commonly chlorine, used to disinfect water can produce by-products that have been tied to increased cancer risks, Villanueva and her team point out. The most prevalent chlorination by-products, chemicals called trihalomethanes (THM), can be absorbed into the body through the skin or by inhalation, they add.
To investigate lifetime trihalomethanes (THM) exposure and bladder cancer risks, the researchers matched 1,219 men and women with bladder cancer to 1,271 control individuals who did not have the disease, surveying them about their exposure to chlorinated water via drinking water, swimming pools, showering and bathing. The researchers also analyzed the average water trihalomethanes (THM) levels in the 123 municipalities included in the study.
People living in households with an average household water trihalomethanes (THM) level of more than 49 micrograms per liter had double the bladder cancer risks of those living in households where water trihalomethanes (THM) concentration was below 8 micrograms per liter, the researchers found. trihalomethanes (THM) levels of about 50 micrograms per liter are common in industrialized societies, they note.
Study participants who drank chlorinated water were at 35% greater risks of bladder cancer than those who didn't, while use of swimming pools boosted bladder cancer risks by 57%. And those who took longer showers or baths and lived in municipalities with higher trihalomethanes (THM) levels were also at increased cancer risks.
When trihalomethanes (THM) is absorbed through the skin or lungs, Villanueva and her team note, it may have a more powerful carcinogenic effect because it does not undergo detoxification via the liver.
"If confirmed elsewhere, this observation has significant public health implications in relation to preventing exposure to these water contaminants," the researchers conclude.
Heartspring Staff are assistants of board reviewed doctors that are medical editors, authors, and reviewers, providing oversight for Heartspring.net. This article is currently undergoing doctor review.
Counter Top Water Filters
Filter media configurations for portable counter top water filters.