Should Those with HCV Be Concerned About Bathing?
Many people are careful not to drink contaminated water but don’t necessarily think about the cleanliness of the water they bathe in. We usually consider showering or bathing as part of taking care of ourselves. After all, washing up gets rid of dead skin cells, removes lingering pathogens and aromas, clears the pores of dirt, eases body pain and hydrates the skin. While all of these benefits can be healthful to those with Hepatitis C, the water being used to bathe with could harbor toxins. Unfortunately, such toxins are easily absorbed in a bathing environment and can have detrimental consequences to a liver fighting Hepatitis C.
The reason bath water poses such a concern to those with Hepatitis C is because a warm shower or bath opens the pores, causing the skin to act like a sponge. As a result, water droplets are not only inhaled, but they are also absorbed through the skin, directly into the bloodstream. Thus, contaminants in bathing water can gain easy access to your blood supply.
The first step in finding out if your liver is in danger from your bathroom’s water supply is to determine your water’s safety. When investigating what is in your water, it is important to recognize that contaminants can originate from the water supply – or they can come from your home’s pipes. There are two main ways to learn about your water:
- Municipal Water Report – For those who have public water, U.S. law requires that everyone have access to their municipal water report. Once you have obtained this report, it should be easy to determine what an appropriate range is for the different contaminants and whether your water supply is within that range.
- Home Water Test Kit – For those who have a well or are concerned with what potential toxins may come from their pipes, home water test kits are relatively inexpensive and simple to use. Just like the municipal water report, a home water test kit will help you determine if the contaminants found in your water are within a normal range.
According to Mehment Oz, MD, host of The Dr. Oz Show, Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and Director of the Cardiovascular Institute & Complementary Medicine Program at NY Presbyterian, there are five contaminants in water to look out for. These include:
- Nitrates and Nitrites – With the potential to damage cells in the body, these chemicals may be in water as a result of runoff from fertilizer or sewage. While a little bit in water is acceptable, make sure your amount does not exceed the acceptable range.
- Arsenic – Arsenic is an odorless and nearly tasteless element that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. There is no tolerable limit in water for this substance, which is toxic to the liver.
- Mercury – Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment, but it is extremely toxic to humans. There is no tolerable limit of mercury in water.
- Cyanide – Cyanide can be toxic to the liver, and only a miniscule amount can be tolerated by the body.
In addition, there is sufficient reason to be concerned about additives put in water to “disinfect” it. Chlorine and substances that chlorine breaks down into (like chloroform and dichloroacetic acid), readily contribute to cellular damage. Since people living with Hepatitis C must work extra hard to protect the cells they have from injury, it seems obvious to minimize their exposure to chlorine.
Before giving up on the splendors of bathing, there is a solution for toxins found in your water supply. While you don’t have to pump bottled water into your shower, you can filter your shower water. If municipal and/or home water tests show contaminants in your home’s water supply, you can install a filter right on the showerhead – or put your entire home on a filtration system. Keep in mind that in their daily duties of removing contaminants, most water filtration systems require some sort of maintenance. In addition, Dr. Oz suggests the following for those who are unable to filter their showerhead or bath faucet:
- Do not put your shower’s misting capabilities up high. This will contribute to more mist that can be more easily inhaled and can more easily penetrate the skin.
- Do not shower in hot water. The hotter the temperature is, the more your pores will open and absorb whatever it comes in contact with.
It may seem that being concerned about the quality of your bathroom’s water is overkill. However, some experts report that under the right conditions, toxins can make their way into your bloodstream six times more readily through absorption than consumption. If and when clinical trials prove this fact, shower filtration systems will become standard practice for those with liver concerns – especially for those living with chronic Hepatitis C.
http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=3, Arsenic, Retrieved October 23, 2009, US National Library of Medicine, 2009.
http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/chlorinyours.html, Chlorine in Your Shower Water, Retrieved October 22, 2009, annieappleseedproject, 2009.
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dont-drink-water, Don’t Drink the Water Video, Retrieved October 22, 2009, ZoCo 1, LLC, 2009.
http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw000/contaminants/dw_contamfs/cyanide.html, Ground Water and Drinking Water, Retrieved October 23, 2009, Environmental Protection Agency, 2009.