How dare I tell you what you MUST do!
Oh, but I’m doing it. Or at the very least, I’m making an *extremely* strong suggestion.
Why? Because chlorine is not to be messed around with!
Chlorinated water interacts with naturally occurring organic matter (like the organic matter found in our waste water) to form water disinfection byproducts, including trihalomethanes (THMs). Two primary THMs are chloroform and bromodichloromethane. According to the National Toxicology Program (Department of Health and Human Services), both of these nasties are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals.”
According to Global Healing Center,
These chlorine byproducts trigger the production of free radicals in the body, causing cell damage, and are highly carcinogenic. The Environmental Defense Fund warns that, “Although concentrations of these carcinogens (THMs) are low, it is precisely these low levels that cancer scientists believe are responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States.”
This. Is. NUTS!
In addition to cancer, studies have also linked THMs from chlorinated water to a variety of reproductive issues, such as miscarriage, birth defects, and low birth weight. THMs can also damage the liver, weakening of the immune system and arteries. It is also suspected that chlorinated water kills beneficial intestinal flora, which plays an extremely important role in digestion, the immune system, and overall health.
The majority of our exposure to THMs is from showering and/or bathing.
Reminder: the skin is the body’s largest organ and absorbs 60% of whatever we put on it. This not only includes body lotions, soaps, and makeup, but also water and the chemicals in water.
In addition, steam contains up to 50 times more chemicals than liquid water since THMs vaporize much more quickly and at a lower temperature than water. Inhaling these chemicals is much more dangerous than drinking water since it goes directly into our blood stream, whereas ingested water (and the chemicals it contains) is partially filtered out by our kidneys and digestive system. These chemicals can also more easily penetrate our skin while showering and/or bathing since the heat opens our pores.
According to the National Toxicology Program,
The concentration of chloroform in the blood increased 2- to 7-fold after showering… Ingestion of drinking water caused little elevation in blood levels of chloroform; however, the use of hot water during showering, bathing, and hand washing of dishes caused significant peaks in chloroform blood concentrations.
The concentration of bromodichloromethane in the blood increased 3- to 4-fold after showering.
Chlorine vapors also greatly irritate the sensitive tissues and bronchial passages of the lungs, and are suspected to be a primary cause of asthma and bronchitis, especially in children.
The good news…
Is that chlorine can easily be removed from water with a filter, shower water filters are extremely easy to install, and even the most expensive options are under $100.
This is my lovely Berkey shower filter with massaging shower head. When I first got it, I was really nervous about installing it, especially since I’m a renter and was worried I’d break something (and start a flood and get kicked out on the streets and be left soaking wet and homeless). But nope. Turns out all I had to do was unscrew the existing shower head (lefty loosey) and screw on the Berkey (righty tighty). That easy. I could immediately smell the difference. I also notice that my skin is less dry/tight after showering.
If you’re looking for a shower head with a hose, check out this Aquasonic shower filter with handheld wand. Aquasana also carries a shower filter without a head, so if you have some fancy-schmancy special shower head, you can just attach it to this filter, which is awesome.
Sources and further reading
- Center for Disease Control, Disinfection By-Products and the Safe Water System
- National Toxicology Program (Department of Health and Human Services), Report on Carcinogens: Twelfth Edition (2011): Bromodichloromethane
- National Toxicology Program (Department of Health and Human Services), Report on Carcinogens: Twelfth Edition (2011): Chloroform
- EU European Commission, Recommendation from the Scientific Expert Group on Occupational Exposure Limits for Chloroform (.pdf)
- US National Library of Medicine, Chlorine Gas Inhalation
- Global Healing Center, Chlorine, Cancer, and Heart Disease
- Citizens Concerned about Chloramine, Chloramine Facts