Thursday, September 17, 2009

The shower head study

Doesn't that title sound like a must-read blog entry?  NOT.  But you should read it anyway.

A story that recently made a splash in the news isn't much of a story for most of us.  But it is a story for people with compromised immune systems.  It's about shower heads that serve as incubators for bacteria and result in people literally being sprayed with bacteria when they step into the shower.  You can read it here if you haven't heard about it already.

The story was picked up from the newswires and run with headlines like "Is Your Shower Making You Sick?"  That kind of headline followed by highlights from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder make it sound like SARS all over again.  Except this time it's not Chinese people who are the carriers, it's the shower head in your very own bathroom!

Most people can just relax.  For one thing, the study was based on an analysis of 50 shower heads from nine U.S. cities, and the bacteria of concern was found in just 30 percent of the shower heads tested.  Significant, but not exactly cause for panic.  For another, healthy people have nothing to worry about. 

The article goes on to say, however, that people with compromised immune systems due to HIV or immune system-repressing drugs or medical treatments are the ones who may be at risk.  That's critical information, and it should have appeared within the few paragraphs of the story.  But you have to go about two-thirds of the way through it before you find that out. 

I understand that journalists need to sell the story to the widest possible audience, but they also have an obligation to inform the public.  Or in this case, to target the message to the segment of the public that most needs to hear it.

Having said all that, however, it seems to me that there's a very simple solution for anyone who is or should be concerned about this, which was not even mentioned in the story.  Every few months take your shower head off and rinse it out thoroughly with bleach.  Problem solved, right?  Or am I missing something?

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