When you do your routine bathroom cleaning, chances are that the sink, tub, and toilet all get a nice little scrub down. Maybe you even mop the floor and organize your medicine cabinet—if you’re feeling a little extra motivated. But there’s one oft-overlooked spot to pay a bit more attention to: the shower head.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder took DNA samples from 656 households and found that the majority contained a harmful bacteria lurking in the shower slime, mycobacterium, which has been linked to lung disease. Who knew the shower could be so dirty, right?
There were a few factors that made certain shower heads more susceptible to the bacteria. One was that metal shower heads make better breeding grounds than plastic ones. Another is that treated water tends to produce more instances of mycobacterium than H2O from wells.
Even though the results of the study certainly sound alarming—um, lung disease?!—Noah Fierer, PhD, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at CU Boulder says it’s not cause for a freakout. “Don’t worry, there is definitely no reason to fear showering,” he says. “There is a fascinating microbial world thriving in your shower head and you can be exposed every time you shower. Most of those microbes are harmless, but a few are not, and this kind of research is helping us understand how our own actions—from the kinds of water treatment systems we use to the materials in our plumbing—can change the makeup of those microbial communities.”
But if your shower head starts looking a little, well, slimy, give it a wipe down, just to be on the safe side.
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