Author Archives: cpeytonthomas

The Truth about Showering Safely

Let’s be truthful – taking a warm shower can be a great way to revitalize yourself in the morning and unwind after a long day. If you aren’t careful, however, it could also make you very sick. Certain disease-causing bacteria, such as Legionella pneumophila, feel right at home in our showerheads due to a regular supply of warm water and their ability to create nearly impenetrable protective biofilms. In layman’s terms, these nasty bacteria have the ability to build a slimy “wall” that keeps the chlorine in our tap water from killing them. And with a regular supply of the warm water that they need to happily grow and reproduce, your showerhead seems eerily similar to a Petri dish.

According to the National Institute of Health, the water droplets created when we take a hot shower contain a fairly significant fraction of respirable, aerosolized particles that these bacteria attach themselves to and use to hitchhike a ride into our lungs. This means that choosing to shower when we bathe can actually increase our risk for developing diseases such as Legionnaire’s Disease or Pontiac Fever, which are caused when Legionella pneumophila makes its way deep into our lungs on aerosolized water droplets. According to the CDC, Legionella pneumophila is one of the most frequent causes of water-borne disease among humans in the United States, with as many as 18,000 people infected per year. Legionellais mainly spread by warm water droplets, such as those encountered while showering, and is not communicable person-to-person.  Breathing through one’s mouth while showering can exacerbate this issue, as a significantly higher portion of these aerosolized particles make it all the way to the alveolar region of our lungs when doing so. However, there are far more effective ways to reduce one’s risk of developing Legionnaire’s Disease than remembering to breathe through the nose.

The most effective ways to reduce the likelihood of encountering Legionella pneumophila when you shower are simple. Firstly, be sure to regularly dismantle, clean and descale your showerhead to ensure than any bacterial biofilms that have accumulated are removed. Choosing an easy to clean metal showerhead over a plastic one is also a pretty good idea (and don’t forget to choose a low-flow showerhead to save water). Secondly, check your hot water heater setting to ensure that bacteria cannot easily grow within the hot water system itself, as any source of stagnant, warm water (hot tubs, water-heaters, etc.) creates the ideal environment in which this bacteria can thrive. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends maintaining domestic water heaters at 60°C (140°F) and water delivered at the faucet at a minimum of 50°C (122°F) to ensure that growth of Legionella is kept to a minimum. As a faucet temperature of greater than 120°F can scald an infant, parents of small children will need to be considerate of not relying on water temperature, alone, to control bacteria.

Showering can be a great way to relax, particularly when you can rest easy knowing that you have taken the steps to ensure that you are doing it safely!

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“The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities” – A Review

Written by Peyton Thomas, an Indoor Environmental Professional with ESG.

The article, “The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities”, makes the argument that the importance of making accommodations for people with environmental sensitivities transcends the health benefits for those people who are sensitive to things such as chemicals and electromagnetic phenomena. Harmful effects of ignoring the factors that cause environmental sensitivities include a decrease in worker productivity and increased absenteeism from work, as well as cases of new people developing sensitivities to aspects of their environment. Thus, it is important to accommodate people with sensitivities, as doing so can reverse these negative effects.

The author of this article discusses the symptoms that manifest due to environmental sensitivities, which range from flu-like symptoms to neurological troubles. Once someone has developed a sensitivity to an aspect of their environment, the recurrence of a symptom may occur at exposure levels that are well below the level that would affect most people. Due to this ease of recurrence, many people without sensitivities find it difficult to understand how something that doesn’t affect them at all can create such a debilitating condition in others, which often leads to the belief that environmental sensitivities are primarily a psychological issue. This, as the article states, is not entirely true, and the true nature of an environmental sensitivity is that it is a complex combination of both physical realities and psychological factors that create a serious medical condition.

The article ultimately argues that due to the harmful effects that this condition may have on one’s health, business productivity, and well-being, it is very important to find ways to address the factors in the environment that cause this issue. One quickly finds that many of the most effective remedies are inexpensive (education, choosing chemical products more wisely, and use of least-toxic cleaning and pest control), and even the more expensive remedies (renovation) tend to pay for themselves in the long run. Thus, it is unwise to ignore this issue due to the ease of accommodation and the positive impact that accommodating this condition can have on many different aspects of life and business.

We will be happy to provide a .pdf copy of the original article, “The Medical Perspectives on Environmental Sensitivities” written by Margaret E. Sears (M.Eng., Ph.D.) in 2007, upon request.