Doing This Can Improve Your Health and It Starts with Your Morning Shower

Shower Filters Help Reduce Chlorine ExposureYou may be drinking filtered water to reduce the number of contaminants you ingest but if you are like me, you had no idea that your shower produced a significant amount of airborne contaminants. The heat and the water treatment chemicals and byproducts combine to create airborne chemicals. Studies have shown that inhaling these airborne chemicals can be more dangerous than drinking the chemicals in water.

You are probably wondering why you are subjected to airborne contaminants while you shower. Disinfectant chemicals like chlorine are used during the water treatment process to keep our drinking water safe. These chemicals react with the organic matter in water and form Disinfection By-Products or DBPs so it’s simply chemistry. When we shower, the heated water releases the chlorine disinfectants and DBPs into the air on onto your skin.

Several DBPs, particularly trihalomethanes (THMs) are shown to increase the risk of bladder, colon, and rectal cancers, cause birth-defects and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Exposure to DBPs occurs with all activities involving chlorinated water and include drinking, cooking, laundry, dishwashing, bathing and showering.

The data from one study sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (Andelman 1986) indicates that hot showers can release between 50-80% of the dissolved chemicals into the air. Emissions from hot baths are 50% lower because water droplets dispersed by a shower head have a larger surface-to volume ratio than water streaming into a bath so more of the volatiles can vaporize.

Another more recent study by environmental engineers from University of Texas at Austin documented that showers and dishwashers contribute to indoor air pollution. The experiments determined that significant percentages of all tested pollutants were transferred from water to indoor air and that exposure from breathing may rival or exceed exposure from drinking the water. EPA studies also support that the shower is a contributor to indoor air pollution. After conducting 29 experiments, the EPA concluded that showers contribute 45% of waterborne pollution spewed into indoor air.

So, what can you do to reduce your exposure?

  • Use shower filters to remove chlorine which will reduce the dissolved chlorine in your shower and also reduce the creation of THMs during your shower (it will not however remove THMs or other DBPs already present in the water)
  • Shorten your shower time
  • Reduce the temperature of your shower since colder water reduces the vaporization of the dissolved chemical
  • Opt for baths rather than showers
  • Use the bathroom exhaust fan to remove the gases from your bathroom
  • Use an air cleaner that removes VOCs to remove the gases that accumulated during your shower

So, it may be a hard sell to shorten your shower length or turn down the heat. I know I wasn’t anxious to do this! However, I have made some changes. I installed a shower filter that I really love. Also, I always use the bathroom exhaust fan when showering and finally, I have an air cleaner in my bedroom that I know is helping to remove the gases that accumulate from a shower.

The shower filter was a lot simpler to install than I initially thought. Although I could have purchased a new shower head with a filter, I opted for adding a filter to my existing shower head. I was able to match the brushed nickel finish, so it looks nice. I did not need a plumber, but I did need a wrench and some white plumber’s tape.

To install, all I had to do was unscrew my current shower head and add the filter and attach the shower head.

In addition to reducing contaminant inhalation, shower filters will also benefit your skin and hair. Many people report improvements in skin irritation and hair softness after installing filters.

What’s In Your Air Freshener?

What's In Your Air Freshener

You like your home to smell fresh and clean so you buy spray air fresheners, scented candles and plug-ins. The scents smell great, and you don’t have to worry about your house smelling funny when entertaining. You’ve smelled bad odors in other people’s homes, and you don’t want that happening to you.

Unfortunately, while you may love the way your air freshener makes your home smell, you may unknowingly be subjecting yourself to dangerous chemicals.

The facts about what’s in your air freshener may surprise you.

Research Shows Air Fresheners Contain Harmful Substances

The National Resources Defense Council tested 14 air fresheners and found that 12 of the fresheners contained phthalates while none listed phthalates on the label.

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that are known to cause birth defects and reproductive harm.

If you are pregnant or have young children at home, you should be especially careful to avoid contact with these chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group tested Febreze Air Effects and detected 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde which the EPA has deemed to be a likely human carcinogen.

In 2010, a University of Washington study found that eight widely used air fresheners released an average of 18 chemicals into the air. On average, one in five of these chemicals were hazardous substances highlighted in federal and some state pollution standards.

Half the air fresheners tested released acetaldehyde, a likely carcinogen.

Kinda frightening, isn’t it?

Reading Labels Doesn’t Help

Even if you read the labels, it won’t help because it’s impossible to get a full list of ingredients for most air fresheners sold in the US because there is no disclosure requirement. You may have noticed the word Fragrance listed as an ingredient. The word Fragrance includes more than 3000 ingredients including many chemicals that have not been assessed for safety.

You may think that purchasing products labeled as all-natural or unscented is a good solution.

Sadly, the term “all-natural” is meaningless because it is unregulated, but is used frequently as a marketing term to convey product safety where none exists.

Even worse, products labeled “unscented” that were tested as part of these studies also contained hazardous chemicals.

Aerosol, Spray, Solid, Candle or Plug-in Air Fresheners Contain Dangerous Chemicals

All types of air fresheners contain dangerous chemicals. So, whether you are using an aerosol, spray, solid, candle or plug-in air freshener, chances are you are breathing in unwanted chemicals.

Options for Freshening Without Air Fresheners

So, what are your options for a clean smelling home?

  1. Improve ventilation by opening a window or using a fan.
  2. Use baking soda to remove odors.
  3. Purchase Air Purifiers/Cleaners to remove odors. One of our favorites is the Austin Healthmate Plus™ and Healthmate Plus Jr™. Learn more about Austin Air HealthMate™. It is capable of trapping 99.97% of all polluting particulates so your home will smell clean and be free of dust, mold, pollen, tobacco smoke, chemical vapors, gases, viruses and bacteria. The Healthmate Plus™ cleans 1500 sq ft and the Healthmate Plus Jr™ cleans 700 sq ft. The Junior versions are perfect for a nursery so your baby can sleep in a clean, fresh environment without chemicals.

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Sources:

Common Air Fresheners Contain Chemicals That May Affect Human Reproductive Development; Natural Resources Defense Council Sept 2007

Your Best Air Freshener Isn’t An Air Freshener; Environmental Working Group Sept 2011

Why You Should Ditch Your Vinyl Shower Curtain

Why You Should Ditch Your Vinyl Shower Curtain

Plastic shower curtains made with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) are toxic to your health. You may have noticed a strong smell when you opened a new vinyl shower curtain or had a vinyl shower curtain in your hotel room. A study showed these PVC shower curtains release as many as 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) some of which cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems.

In addition to VOCs, the shower curtains were also found to contain phthalates and metals. The study found some of these chemicals lingered in the air 28 days after a curtain was hung. Clearly, this is a significant contributor to indoor air pollution that can be easily avoided.

Your best bet is to look for shower curtains that are labeled vinyl-free or PVC-free or ones made of organic cotton.

Suggested Reading:
Why You May Want to Rethink Dry Cleaning
Are Your Personal Care Products Safe?

Sources:
Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell. Sponsored by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s (CHEJ) PVC Campaign and the Work Group for Safe Markets.