back to article Warning: Showers can seriously damage your health

US scientists have rather disturbingly provided ammunition for shower-dodging geeks to defend their malodorous ways: showers can actually be bad for your health. According to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, pathogens which occur naturally at low levels in water supplies can accumulate in high …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    what nutter stands under the shower when they turn it on (other than the head cases that dive into frozen lakes etc).

  2. The Indomitable Gall

    Re: Seriously...

    Don't they do this in shower gel ads? Maybe we should sue them for setting a bad example....

  3. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 13:59

    What nutters? How about global warmistas who are trying to conserve every ounce of water they use - assuming they actually bother to shower in the first place, which seems increasingly common as the belief takes hold of their brains.

    (yes, belief. A tribunal here in blighty just recently ruled that the beliefs of global warming alarmists have equivalent stature to other religious beliefs and can sue for unfair dismissal if they feel their beliefs are being ignored. Of course that means they should have to undergo the same ridicule all other religious undergo now. Happy? Oh you bet I am! Always knew it was a cult.)

  4. Chris Redpath


    What I'd like to know is how dangerous the flow is after you've let it run long enough to get warm? Not much, I'd bet. I expect the slippy floor is more dangerous.

  5. Richard 39

    Scaremongering again

    Ah lovely, my daily dose of American fear mongering. Is it impossible for Americans to come up with cheerful, happy news anymore, or do they have do push the fear angenda in every walk of life now?

    Some prick comes up with a 'scientific' study and comes to the conclusion it's going to harm us - germs are bad for you bacteria is bad for you, run for your lives!!!!!

    "most people will be fine unless they have compromised immune systems" - ffs if your immune system is compromised it's because you've spent your whole life avoiding germs and killing 99.9% of them with crap like detox in fear of these terrible germs.

    What no-one seems to point out or remember is that the human immune system NEEDS germs and bacteria in order to remember how to kill it and keep it up to date.

    Biology 101 -

    Vaccinations are weakend versions of diseases that your body can easily kill, your immune system then 'remembers' the type if disease if you catch the real version and replicates the necessarry white blood cells to kill it, humans need 'background' dirt and germs as you cannot vaccinate every kind of attack, if you remove that from your environment then you are damaging yourself as you don't have the memory bank of how to kill it.

    oh and back to the article, I cannot see how bacteria could survive in my shower, I have it running pre getting in on a very hot setting to make loads of steam. In my head the mass of water pouring out is sufficient to wash out the bacteria and kill it with its temperature before I step in and anyway I dont live in a germ free Detox 99% germ free environment so my immune system should be sound.

  6. seanj
    Paris Hilton

    Showers may contain bacteria...

    ... but that sounds a damn sight more appealing to me than sitting in a vat of your own filth suspended in water for half an hour - bubble bath or no bubble bath!

    As AC 13:59 states, what kind of simpleton stands under the shower while they turn it on?

    Paris, because a) she's probably that kind of simpleton, an b) I'd share a bath or shower with her any day - bacteria or no bacteria (from her or the shower!).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Did they suggest how to kill the bugs?

    Did the boffins have any suggestions on how to tackle this menace?

  8. Kwac

    @AC 13:59

    Are you really assuming that everything is suddenly thrown out immediately you turn on the shower, rather than the more logical (but not necessarily accurate) a load shot out, followed by gradually lessening amounts, until the shower is turned off?

    However, if my assumption is accurate, the reason for letting the light of my life shower first makes more sense than just me being fully dressed & ready to go whilst she's still got the hair-dryer in her hand.

  9. Rob Dobs

    no excuse to smell bad

    This is not an excuse to smell bad, rather a reason to clean or replace your shower head frequently. Its simple folks, they are $10-20, and should be swapped out every year or so, you will also get better water pressure with a clean shower head.

    Further you need to actually CLEAN the environment around you now and then. No need for OCD or surgery cleanliness.

    Take your removable shower head (the kind with a cord is best for this reason alone) and dump it in a small bucket of vinegar. (Vinegar is like $2 a gallon from Costco and works better than most chemicals). Leave it soaking for a few hours or overnight and all that crap is gone.

    If you have a metal shower head you can use bleach and water -

    (be careful soaking the plastic shower heads as the vinegar or bleach may stain or crack some plastics).

    Now separate from this article I have heard from plenty of sources that state that bathing frequently and using antibacterial soap can be bad for you. Even normal soaps can rob your hair and skin of very important oils and residues that your body creates for protection. So are you better off bathing every day...probably not. But your social life will be much better if you at least do it every couple of days though. :-)

  10. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re:@AC 13:59

    Magic! So the serious GW fixated eco-nazis will get a facefull of inimical pathogens every morning and will eventually die out.

    Almost makes you think there's something to this Intelligent Design shite after all...........

  11. Anonymous Coward


    What is the "advice" after the scaremongering ?

    Disinfect shower heads once a month (e.g. by spraying with some anti-bacterial spray) ?

    Now I know why I can spend silly money and by a remote control for my shower... and I thought it was a stupid idea and waste of money.

  12. DelM

    @Richard 39: Now boarding Ship B

    I bet you laugh at phone sanitizers, too. And to think Douglas Adams was one of your own...

    Mine's the coat with the Purell and Lysol in the vest pockets.

  13. Nev

    More showers, not less

    Doesn't this study show that people should be taking more showers?

    That way there's less possibility of bacterial build-up.

    It's only the mingers who don't shower every day who are at risk.

  14. Daniel 1


    "Now I know why I can spend silly money and by a remote control for my shower"

    Oh noes! Robot showers wage germ warfare on humanity! Don't do it, I say, or we're all doomed!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Re: indeed

    Ah they've thought about that one too! They claim that merely being in the presence of the shower head when it is first switched on is potentially lethal due to the aerosol effect which knocks the blighters into the air. Also, disinfection is no solution because they discovered much higher levels of bacteria a couple of months after rinsing the shower heads with bleach, most probably due to evolved resistance.

    One thing they haven't quite managed to explain is why half the showering world's population has not been wiped out yet by this evil menace. Hmmm....

  16. Anonymous Coward


    What's the difference between a Boffin and Scientist?

    I'm sure the BBC would know...but they don't use "boffin" as far as I know. There must be a reason.

  17. Rob

    @Rob Dobs

    Swapped out every year or so!

    How hard is your water? Do you actually clean the shower head at all?

    I've had the same shower head for he past 2 years, it works and it's clean and no these ones don't cost $10-20 a piece.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    How gross

    Oh, if the shower head is that dirty, I'm gonna stop doing myself with it..... Paris - coz she knows what I'm talking about!

  19. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    This needed a scientific study?

    We needed scientists to tell us that crud builds up on showerheads and that said crud is icky? Or did those scientists just need to find a study that needed funding?

    And Rob Dobs, no offense man, but you've obviously spent a lot of time thinking about cleaning showers and bathrooms.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Legionaires disease V2.0

    IIRC that was a bacterium found to live int he warm water systems, particularly the showers and aircons, of hotels.

    Which is why showers should be set in the high 50c's to prevent them living here.

    30 years on. New decade, new pathogen.

    Liek the vinegar idea. Simple and cheap. Hopefully effective too.

  21. redbook

    It's sounds stoopid but the Board will approve it.

    Nine cities in seven states and Pace and his band of merry swabbers only manage 50 shower heads? This was a piss-up. DNA Bods on Tour 2009. The shower head poking a mere ruse.

    And who would of thought that about Norman Pace - years ago one half of the side-splitting duo 'The Management' and now top DNA boffin (which Opera thinks isn't a word).

  22. Murray Pearson 1
    Dead Vulture

    Disinfect that shower head (occasionally)

    A few years back I was one of those unfortunates to suffer from a Mycobacterium avium infection. It almost killed me — it was really, really horrific. The bacteria formed an abcess which had to be drained, and the subsequent dressing changes inflicted "ten-out-of-a-possible-ten" levels of pain, for which no painkiller except hypnosis was effective (not even morphine worked).

    So, while these infections are rare, they are NOT to be trifled with.

    That being said, the docs also informed me that about 75% of all people have M. avium circulating in their bodies all the time; probably I do right now, with no ill effect.

    But just the same, I think I'll descale my shower head with vinegar and then give it a little bleach-soak and rinsing.....

  23. Richard Porter

    What's an oathogen?

    Does it cause you to shout "'sTruth!" when you've just been scalded/frozen?

  24. Anonymous Coward

    50 shower heads

    "50 shower heads from nine cities in seven states"

    That a fantastic sample size. I wonder what the error margin is.

    Basically a study with no conclusion because the sample size is too small and all ti does is push the author's pet subject.

  25. edoardo

    see The Science of Fear

    Richard 39,

    spot on. This reminded me of Daniel Gardner's super book "The Science of Fear"

    pharma companies in the US cannot advertise but they can support studies, awareness campaigns etc, ... and often there is a solution for any new scares :-)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    LOL, let me clear this up...

    UoC Boulder is one of the hippiest schools in the country. The entire town is filled with dirty stinking hippies' kids, so research like this is all the funnier.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    yeah well...

    The story is quite fun but I would have thought that it could have been a bit more informative - possibly a bootnote with some reflective comments?

    1. The issue that (dirty) showerheads (and taps) in bathrooms / kitchens etc have bacterial infestations is not new. Many of us were taught to keep our taps and shower heads clean with vinegar etc already many years ago for this specific purpose (even in soft water areas). Plastic of many kinds is unsuitable as container for many food items especially because of its surface (which is perfect for bacteria growth). So for example you should never have anything with milk in a plastic bottle as the residue can become amalgamated with the plastic of the container itself. Of particular interest is if food stuff in plastic container has become mouldy as this would grow into the plastic itself and so be virtually impossible to get clean indepth - no matter how clean it looks on the surface there is mold in the plastic... These issues with plastics is the very reason to have metal shower heads...

    2. The reason for these infestation is not usually due to the bacterias being resistant (which is utter nonsense in most cases) but because residues are not having significant antibacterial content to kill bacterias. Basically the water coming from the tap is usually bacteria free (commonly due to succesful contribution of the antibacterials added to your drinking water by your local water company) but this often evaporates from the residue on your shower head and tap and so paves the way for bacteria growth.

    3. As many people will wash their showerheads and taps when they clean their bathrooms this should normally not be a problem unless you are really unlucky (or sloppy with your cleaning). In case where it is not your shower etc - all you need to do is to leave the water on for a little while to flush out most of the bacteria before using the shower. The water when coming directly from the water company is initially also antagonising bacteria growth (due to its additives). Which by the way is why you should never put tap water directly into your aquarium - as it kills of your biofilter!

  28. peyton?

    @Richard 39

    If you have a few pints this evening, it will help you calm down immensely.

    I'm an American. Does that count as good news from America?

  29. Billl
    IT Angle

    Boulder Stinks!

    Knowing Boulder, it kind of makes sense that the research would come from there. Hardly anyone there actually showers. The smell of Patchouli Oil forces me to keep at least a 10 mile radius around the town.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    "and related oathogens -"


  31. thomas k.


    "Magic! So the serious GW fixated eco-nazis will get a facefull of inimical pathogens every morning and will eventually die out."

    I guess that's what differentiates us from WoW fanatics - we *do* shower on occasion.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    for all you considering no shower

    Just remember, the closest thing you will get to will be your rosy palm; with which I'm sure you are already initmately familiar. Do everyone a favor. take a shower. use soap. there's nothing to brag about smelling like a goat.

  33. Richard 102

    It's Boulder, CO, folks

    I went to grad school there. Bunch of idiots there who think industrialization is terrible and capitalism a scourge, before they go skiing or fly to Cancun for spring break.

  34. David 45


    I have a shower once a month, whether I need it or not.

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Dentists visits too

    Dentists visits too.. the college of dentistry here reportedly has to flush out their pipes at regular intervals (the ones they hook up to the little water-sprayers they rinse people's mouths with...) because the 1/4" pipes would become constricted by bacterial film. Super-gross!

  36. BlueGreen

    and wut about various Aspergillus species

    these tend to grow in damp conditions like bathrooms (that typical black mould) and can cause infections too. In both cases I guess you'd have to be a bit unlucky.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    This is why

    I soak my showerhead in bleach twice a week and replace it every 6-9 months.

    Lifeguard's Lung? Nah, but I have had Swimmer's Ear.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm... right....

    Whilst some of you people who have drinkable water coming from your taps are quibbling, others of us have Indian village water (Metro ouskirts, not metro water authority treated), of uncertain quality, delivered to a hole in the ground, and pumped from there to a tank on the roof...

    It's hard water too, so there's plenty of scale.

    Oh well, the solar water heats it up to scalding; I'll just make sure that gets to run for a minute or two before I add the cold

  39. J 3
    Paris Hilton

    Faceful of nastiness?

    Oh, well. Life is tough.

  40. Sir Runcible Spoon

    I vote this thread..

    Thread of the Week, if not the month :)

    Back to form El Reggers, it used to be that we took the piss out of every article and some weird and unpredictable way.

    <Style +1>

  41. Captain Save-a-ho

    Education problems in Colorado

    When folks in Colorado learn to count about 50 and can provide a substantial sample size (say 10000 shower heads), then maybe there will be a trend. Why the fuck would anyone only sample 50 specimens for an study to draw conclusions about the billions of showers in use every day?

    Scientists everywhere should be ashamed.

  42. deegee

    Not hot enough...

    For those commentards who stated that they leave the shower run for a minute to get the hot water flowing before they get into it, that does _nothing_ at all to kill all bacteria, that will only kill a limited number of the various bacterium families, unless you like your showers scalding hot...

    It takes at least 121C or 250F to kill most types of bacteria (~80%) -- and that is still insufficient to kill all types of bacteria. If your showers are at that temperature you won't have much skin left on you...

    Plus water heaters are also stewing pots for certain types of bacteria, so bacteria-laden water is always spewing out of the shower head, which is also why you _never_ drink water from the hot tap -- always boil or nuke (microwave) hot tap water sufficiently before drinking.

    If your immune system is so bad that water from your shower is killing you, then you are living in an area with extremely polluted water, and you're going to die anyway...

  43. A 20

    I'd check the taps whilst you're at it.

    Our bathroom cold water tap always develops a film of greyish slime underneath the nozzle if you forget to wash that area for a month or so.

    Doesn't happen with the hot tap, so I guess whatever's growing is heat sensitive.

  44. Herby

    Life IS dangerous. Deal with it.

    Yes, life is a very dangerous thing. But, we all deal with it in many ways. I suspect that the daily showering and the like (I do use soap and water!) is probably healthy for me. The running water DOES generate a small static electric charge that yields ions that make me feel good. It was noted in the study that PLASTIC showerheads had more of the silly bacteria that metal ones, and thankfully I use one of those (I see a law here!). For the most part, we need to understand there are tradeoffs in EVERY action we do. Sure I can walk for 1/2 hour to the drug store (which I just might do today), or I could drive. At the moment, my time isn't worth much, being unemployed, so I might walk. Were I employed, I might not have as much time, so I could drive and emit all those nasty green house gases (I suppose that breathing doesn't do this, as it is never discussed by Al Gore and his friends). All a tradeoff.

    Just remember this: LIFE IS A TERMINAL DISEASE. No amount of work will change that AT ALL!

    We now return you to the regularly scheduled program of comments.

  45. Mephistro

    @ thomas k.

    "I guess that's what differentiates us from WoW fanatics - we *do* shower on occasion."

    You are totally wrong! . I'm a WoW fanatic and I took a shower once!

  46. Morten


    What? You need 120C temp water to kill 80% of germs? That is not true. You have to keep the water under pressure to even get it to that temperature.

    Most bacterias dies between 70 and 80C, only a few can survive in close to boiling temperatures.

  47. Richard 39

    @ Mephistro

    "I'm a WoW fanatic and I took a shower once!"

    Utilise your time man, have a shower then the servers are down for weekly maintenance (every Wednesday), that's what I do while I wait for them to come back up :-)

    Troll because you don't have a blood elf icon

  48. alyn


    Bacterias? Bacteria is already plural, bacterium is is the singular

  49. William Towle

    Oblig. @AC 15:03 2009-09-15

    > What's the difference between a Boffin and Scientist?

    A scientist is a person who studies natural phenomena in a systematic manner, whereas a boffin is something people here frequently announce they'd like to be giving to Paris.

    // Humph is dead, long live Humph

  50. Nameless Faceless Computer User
    Thumb Down

    Here's one from a few years ago...

    Having your teeth cleaned at the dentist could lead to a heart attack. Who is paying for all these studies?

  51. deegee

    @Morten 6:07

    Sorry, I am correct. How many thousands of actual links on this would you like me to post?

    Google it yourself. +temperature +kill +bacteria You _need_ 121C to kill most bacteria.

    Trust me, I had to research this a while ago for some specific work.

    Why do you think they tell people to boil water? Do you take boiling hot showers?

  52. Paper

    Yeah well

    Who the hell let's slime build up to visible levels in their bathroom? Yuck!

    Solution: Take off the shower head, just use the water running out of the nozzle end.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    bacteria and stuff

    Hot water from boilers usually include bacteria. Hot water systems also contribute with other stuff as a result of the water being in contact with hot metal pipes etc. Hot water from any tap is usually not suitable for drinking. However the bacteria that usually are available in (good quality) water boilers are not usually a health threat of significance (as you hopefully do not drink large amounts of it). The issue here is instead that those bacteria types which commonly can grow on surfaces open to air (in cold and warm water) can be significantly bad for you. The reason for why you do not need to boil cold water and you can still drink it is because the water is treated by the water company (mostly chlorine based, but sometimes also chloramide etc). The amount of additives put into water by the water companies is usually sufficient to kill of most of all germs that may be present in the water. The problem is therefore (usually) not that the water coming down the pipe has a lot of bacteria in it. That water is "disinfected". The problem is that when water is coming out of the tap and then open to the air stuff like clorine will (after a while) dissipate and so the water drops left on the tap and other surfaces will become "accessible" and "possible lifespace" for bacteria etc. If your shower head and tap is relatively clean, it makes sense to "flush" a little before using it as the point is not "to kill" bacteria, but to get rid of the small amount of water close to the tap or shower head which has been exposed to air and bacteria growth. This makes perfect sense since the water further down the pipe will still include sufficient additives from the watercompany to be relatively bacteria free (if the pipe is used on a regular basis). The hot water should not be a problem for normal use; yes it is unsuitable for drinking; but there are recommendations for setting the temperature for the hot water. In many countries the boiler heats water to a high temperature to avoid getting problems with bacteria. More sofisticated boilers heat the hot water up to very hight temperature and in the section where the water is leaving the boiler there is a second thermostat which adds fresh cold water to the heated water to lower the temperature (to avoid having scolding steam coming out of your hot water taps). In all systems however it makes sense to flush out the water which has been standing in the pipe (people often flush out standing "hot" water unconsiously as standing water in the pipes after the boiler is presumably not hot enough).

    So the point is, you should keep your stuff clean and you should maintain your boiler. You should also not drink water from the hot water taps (not only because of bacteria but also for the problem with unwanted stuff from any of the metal pipes which the hot water has passed through etc). To flush out standing water from taps etc has always been a good advice - especially if you intend to drink it...

    But then again - these points seem to be rather obvious.

  54. JC 2
    IT Angle

    Not Relevant

    If you stand with your face under the shower head when you turn it on, the heart attack comes from that sudden blast of cold water not what's in it.

  55. Kugutsu


    Are you confusing Celsius and Fahrenheit? 120°C is above the boiling point of water, and is a bit excessive to kill bacteria. Most of them will die at around 70°C (to put it into context, milk is pasteurised at about 70°C). Of course, a very few bacteria may survive, and also things like viruses and spores, which is why to sterilise stuff like medical equipment, or ultra long life food, they heat it above 120°C, but it needs to be done under pressure, you can't boil water above 100°C under normal conditions.

    The danger temperatures with bacteria is between 30-50°C, which is exactly the sort of temperatures most people will shower under - these conditions will let bacteria thrive, and as other posters have said, storing warm water in tanks is basically like giving them a nice little multiplication vat, hence why you should avoid drinking warm water...

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