Feature

Health scare of the week: Taking a shower of germs

Nearly a third of shower heads harbor high levels of <em>Mycobacterium avium,</em> a pathogen known to cause respiratory disease.

When you turn on your shower, you’re probably getting a faceful of bacteria, some of them harmful. Researchers examined shower heads from nine cities and analyzed the slime that grows inside, to see which germs live there. Most were harmless, but tests showed that nearly a third of shower heads harbored high levels of Mycobacterium avium, a pathogen known to cause respiratory disease. Dispersed in warm shower mist, the bacteria could readily infect a person’s lungs, scientists say, although the threat is mainly a concern for people with compromised immune systems. “If you are healthy and your immune system is functioning properly, you should not worry about the germs in your shower head,” lead researcher Leah Feazel tells CNN.com. The bugs prefer plastic shower heads over metal ones, so change yours frequently, Feazel says, or remove it and give it a good scrub. And if you’re susceptible to pulmonary infections, “take a bath instead of a shower.”

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