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Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Date:9/14/2009

But only people with weakened immune systems should worry, study says

MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- If your immune system is weakened, you may want to rethink that daily shower.

New research suggests that ordinary showerheads are awash in germs, particularly a type that can cause lung disease in people whose immunity to illness is compromised.

The germs could be "blasted out of the showerhead and inhaled by the person showering," said study co-author Leah M. Feazel, a researcher at the University of Colorado's department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

But Feazel said showerheads shouldn't pose a threat to most people. And while the new findings do raise questions, it's not clear if showerheads are any more germ-friendly than other places around the house, such as faucets, counters and toilets, she said.

Feazel and her colleagues decided to look at showerheads because they seem like an ideal place for germs to grow.

The inside of a showerhead provides ideal conditions for microbial growth, Feazel said. "It is moist, warm, protected from disturbance, and frequently fed with nutrient resources in the tap water. Also, most people have noticed discoloration on their showerheads. This 'soap-scum' is actually microbial growth."

The researchers analyzed germs found in the film formed in 45 showerheads from nine U.S. cities. They found a variety of bacteria in showerheads, most of which don't cause illness in people. But they also found germs called mycobacteria, which are common and can cause lung disease in people with compromised immune systems, Feazel said.

The levels of certain germs that could spell trouble were 100 times above what they were in water before it made its way to the showerhead, the researchers said.

The unique thing about showerheads is that the germs could be inhaled. People are unlikely to inhale other kinds of household ge
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