You vs. Chlorine: Easy Ways to Reduce Exposure

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t wait for the day that we own a home and can install a whole house water filtration system, so that I don’t have to even think about what the heck is in our city tap water.

If you’re like us, you love your Brita (or other brand) water filter pitcher. You wouldn’t dream of drinking your tap water without it. (Please allow me to recommend that, if you don’t already filter your tap water for drinking, you really should start.) We’ve had one since 2008, and have never looked back.

It’s interesting – when you move, even if it’s just 10 miles away from where you were, you can find yourself in a different city jurisdiction with different quality tap water. We’ve certainly experienced that, and are glad to say our trusty Brita has been there every step of the way.

Of course, we realize that the results from a simple Brita don’t hold a candle to what we’ll eventually have with a whole house system, but we do what we can. For now, it at least removes the chlorine, copper, mercury, cadmium, and zinc. (I wish it could completely remove fluoride too, but that’s a whole other discussion in itself…)

In our current location, our overall water quality is the worst we’ve experienced. It’s very hard water, which tested as 527 ppm coming out of our tap by a Culligan rep – exceeding the 500 ppm limit set by the Clean Water Act of 1972. It’s also very full of chlorine (usually to the point that you can smell it if you sniff a glass full of tap water). We’ve experienced the typical frustrations of hard water (trouble with dishwasher results, trouble getting soaps/shampoos to foam, and trouble getting clothes clean – that one was solved by adding Borax to the wash, FYI).

All of this really started getting my wheels turning, wondering just how bad all of this actually is for us, especially the chlorine part. It seems like we’re being exposed to it at levels way greater than in prior locations.


So What’s the Worry?

Okay, so the water we’ve been drinking is filtered by Brita, but what about showering? We already are well aware that our hard water complicates showering, since it affects the lathering and cleaning ability of soaps and shampoos. Going beyond the hard water problem, what about the chlorine? I started looking into it, and it’s pretty mind-blowing – it seems like showering in chlorinated water simply isn’t good for anyone, especially those with pre-existing conditions that put them especially at risk (like eczema or asthma, for example).

I found plenty of material on the subject, and here is a little bit if you’d like to start reading some of what I’ve found: here and here. If you want to go beyond layman’s terms and see one of the Oxford journals that gets cited, you can access that here. Or here’s another study. It’s super easy to Google info on this topic, so I won’t go bananas listing a ton of sites!

Basically, research shows that chlorine exposure via inhalation and skin absorption during a shower is actually way greater than the exposure from drinking chlorinated water, which took me totally by surprise, especially the inhalation risk. But it really all makes sense once you think about it – the heat of the shower vaporizes the chemicals at a faster rate than the water, so you’re getting way higher concentrations of those vaporized chemicals than what’s in the water hitting your body. What’s worse is that one of the forms of chlorine you’re inhaling is chloroform, a known carcinogen. Add to that the intake you’re getting from your skin absorbing it into your warm, open pores, and you’re getting quite a dose:

“Science News reported that researchers found increases in chloroform in study participants’ lungs of about 2.7ppb after a 10-minute shower. Combined with warm water opening pores, skin absorption and lung inhalation during a 10-minute shower showed to be greater than the amount that would be ingested by drinking 8 glasses of the same water.”

That leave you feeling a little violated? Enter the long list of known potential health risks associated with showering in chlorinated water:

  • Dry/itchy skin and dry scalp and hair, from natural moisture being stripped
  • Accelerated skin aging, since chlorine exposure triggers free radicals
  • Physical fatigue, depression, and lowered autoimmune function
  • Pregnancy complications, since chlorine enters the bloodstream and therefore exposes the fetus as well
  • Increased incidences of allergies, asthma attacks, sinus infections, and development of juvenile asthma, since chlorine irritates the vulnerable soft tissues of the lungs and sinuses
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • And last but certainly not least…increased cancer risk

Don’t get me wrong – this is no secret. It’s not news. I’m person number 10,000,001 to learn about this. But, I kind of wonder, how is it that I’ve never heard anything about this before? These dangers are well-documented among the science community and government agencies, and have been for a long time – some of these studies were published as early as 1986. So, we’ve known about this for at nearly 30 years, but have done nothing about it? Just left “well enough” alone? And with all the technological advances that have happened since the 80’s, safer public water sanitation hasn’t been one of them?


What Can We Do?

This is yet another example of why we as consumers have to take matters into our own hands, since city government is fine continuing the status quo methods that expose us to chlorine. Obviously there have never been mass deaths from showering or an immediate, violent “Showering Sickness” that leaves citizens demanding reform. This is one of those daily exposures, slowly and under the radar, that we’ll never know if is to blame if we or a loved one get cancer. Or even any of the less serious side effects – would you ever know if this was the root cause? Nope.

So what to do? It’s not like we have the option to stop bathing, so just like with our drinking water, I started looking online for solutions for safer water in the shower.

I knew that all kinds of fancy shower heads existed to give you stream options, but I never knew it was so easy to be filtering your shower water! (My inner geek is showing, because I think this is pretty nifty!)

I was really pleased to see a wide variety of options for shower filters, from filter units that you simply screw into place between the shower pipe and shower head, to shower heads that contain a filter inside.  Of course, I did my usual research and compared prices, availability, and reviews, and ended up going with Brita, since it’s a tried and true brand in our home.

The model we picked is the Brita In-Line Shower Filtration System #WFSHS-102. It’s an attractive-looking little bugger, especially compared to many of the filtration systems that stick out like a sore thumb. Priced affordably at $19.97 at Home Depot, it comes with one filter to get you started, and the item was even available in-store for fast pickup. I wish it were actually made of metal, but it’s a chrome-finished plastic that even had me fooled for a minute – it really looks and feels like metal.

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Installation of the unit couldn’t be any easier – you simply screw off the bottom of the shower head, insert the filter, and screw it back on. You then unscrew your current shower head, clean the threading, apply some plumber’s tape, and then screw this unit in place. Once it’s securely attached, you run your shower water for at least a minute to clear any excess carbon dust from the filter, and presto you’re ready to go.

One filter can last up to six months, and replacement filters are available for $9.97 each. Not a bad price at all to pay for chlorine-free showering!

Performance-wise, I can honestly say that the difference can be felt immediately. I’d read many, many reviews that all said it, but to experience it yourself is another matter. The benefits are twofold: our water is so much softer, plus the chlorine smell and effects are gone completely! Our soaps and shampoos now lather like none other. I notice the benefits particularly in washing my hair – the way the water interacts with my hair feels smoother, more natural. I can feel my soap and shampoo cleaning better and being thoroughly rinsed away, not leaving residue. I feel cleaner in general, and my skin and hair immediately felt softer after just one shower. Dryness and itching? Gone. You’ve got to feel it for yourself to get it.

I’m certainly not the only one to feel this way, and you can see that from reading reviews of virtually any shower filter, not just this Brita one. I saw an unbelievable amount of people who said that using a shower filter has changed their lives – the conditions they had suffered (eczema, asthma, acne, rashes, chronic itching, etc.) all either drastically improved or went away completely. So many people had been to doctor after doctor, used prescriptions, changed their diets, and drove themselves nuts trying to cure different conditions, but in the end, the magic bullet was simple – to eliminate chlorine exposure. Who would have ever thought?!

Now, I realize shower head filters just aren’t enough if you have kiddos and need to fill a bathtub (or prefer baths yourself). So, check out some great suggestions in this post by blogger Wellness Mama, which can help reduce/neutralize chlorine exposure during bath time (see post for full info and where to buy):

  • Two forms of Vitamin C: 1) Ascorbic Acid form of Vitamin C, and 2) Sodium Ascorbate form of Vitamin C
  • Bentonite Clay
  • Salts/Minerals: a) 1-2 cups of epsom salts or magnesium flakes, and b) 1/2 cup Himalayan or Sea Salt

Also, check out this super amazing bathtub spout filter I came across here.

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My hope in sharing this info is that anyone who, like me, was previously unaware of this risk can now have a safer shower (or bath) experience with a very wallet-friendly option. And for anyone suffering the conditions I mentioned, I hope that improvement/relief could possibly come as easily as changing a shower head!

I think that wraps it up! Wishing you healthier, happier days!


* UPDATE * UPDATE * UPDATE * UPDATE * UPDATE * UPDATE * 

Impressed by the shower head filter, I started looking into filtration options for our two faucets (bathroom and kitchen). I really don’t want to be washing my face and brushing my teeth in this tap water, nor do I want to have to reach for the Brita pitcher every time I need a safe water while I’m cooking. Who wants to rinse off their fruits and veggies in the equivalent of a swimming pool?! Not me.

So far I’ve purchased the Pur Advanced Faucet Water Filter, which we’ve put in place on our kitchen faucet. Installation couldn’t have been easier, and I simply love using this product. It easily snaps on and off if you want to remove it for more room while washing larger items, and going from filtered to non-filtered water is as easy as turning up or down the lever on the side. This feature is fantastic for conserving the use of the filter only when it’s really needed – no sense using up the filter for rinsing off dirty dishes!

It’s truly amazing the results you get from this filter – the water is insanely clear and crisp-tasting, with absolutely zero odor whatsoever. It’s better quality than even our Brita’s water, I admit, and actually makes me consider that our next water pitcher might be Pur instead.

Screenshot 2016-01-04 15.38.49

What I love even more about this unit is just how much it filters out of the water – it’s not just helping with chlorine reduction or easing hard water. There are almost 100 substances that this filter can remove in the 90s range of percentage – pretty darn impressive! Check out the Performance Data Sheet for this product:

Screenshot 2016-02-13 16.41.15

The only thing slight downside with this product is that the filtered water can only come out at one flow rate, due to the filtration process. I totally understand that, and don’t mind it at all for kitchen use – it still comes out fast enough that it’s not much of a hindrance.

However, I realize that it simply wouldn’t be good for a bathroom faucet. It’d be a real drag to try to wash your face or brush your teeth under this flow rate. Plus, our bathroom faucet is inconveniently low already, so this would really make things cramped. Since we live in an apartment, there’s nothing I can do about it, unfortunately. But for now, I think we’ve made great progress!

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