Silent poisonA hot, steamy shower or bath is a great way to relax and unwind - or so we thought. In reality, we are exposing ourselves to an array of toxins with significant consequences. We would never suspect that we are bathing in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified pesticide. According to the Global Healing Center post "Chlorine, Cancer, and Heart Disease":
"There is a lot of well-founded concern about chlorine. When chlorine is added to our water, it combines with other natural compounds to form Trihalomethanes (chlorination byproducts), or THMs. 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.'"
A case in point is a study involving women from Hartford, Connecticut, which found that those with breast cancer have much higher levels of chlorine byproducts (by 50 - 60 percent) than women who are cancer-free.
Likewise, research in Spain discovered a higher incidence of bladder cancer in people exposed to chlorine through bathing, showering, ingestion and swimming in pools.
Toxins are not only easily absorbed through pores opened by hot water but also through inhalation of chloroform - a toxic byproduct of water chlorination. In the article "Is your daily shower making you sick?," Chris Kresser, L.Ac, observes:
"While our bodies can filter out much of the chlorine from our drinking water, the THMs and other disinfectant byproducts we inhale during showers and baths may be much more harmful, since the chlorine gas we inhale enters directly into our blood stream. "
As stated by the EPA, chloroform exposure affects the central nervous system and liver. It can also provoke depression and irritability. Unfortunately, chloramine (ammonia combined with chlorine) is often added to the water supply as well, creating an even heavier toxic load.
Minimize riskShort of swearing off bathing permanently, a few simple methods are effective in reducing contact with chlorine. Needless to say, a high-quality shower filter is the first line of defense. Bathwater filters are also available. However, most only remove chlorine - unless the filter specifically utilizes vitamin C for reducing chloramine as well. Ultimate protection from both chlorine and chloramine would entail a whole-house water filtration system. Budget-friendly options include:
- Dissolving 1000 milligrams of vitamin C in bathwater to neutralize chlorine and chloramine (up to 99 percent)
- Taking less frequent or shorter showers
- Reducing the temperature of bath and shower water
- Turning off water while lathering
Chlorine most likely won't disappear from our water supply anytime soon. As a seemingly cheap disinfectant, it's here to stay. But through awareness and proactive steps, we can substantially reduce exposure and lessen health risks.