People wanting to protect themselves from chlorinated water in the shower will often buy a $50 shower filter. But do shower filters protect your health? You may be surprised to learn that they do very little.
To eliminate the cancer-causing contaminants in the shower you need whole house water filters. A shower filter doesn’t do it.
Shower filters use patented KDF™ media. KDF is one of my favorite media, but what it does is to convert chlorine to chloride. The result of such a small device is also impressive.
Perhaps 90% of chlorine is converted. The smell of chlorine will most likely be eliminated. You will think you have achieved something really remarkable.
The deception is that the chemical compounds in shower or bath water that are truly harmful are not removed. These compounds are known as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids.
They are formed when chlorine interacts with organic material in the city’s water supply. They are present in the water as it enters your home.
They have no taste or odor and shower filters do not remove them. So even though your water will smell better because chlorine has been reduced these carcinogens will still be present.
Effects of the Compounds on Your Health
Let’s explore the effect of these compounds on your health. When chlorine is added to public water supplies it interacts with any organic material in the water.
This includes leaves, branches, and decaying organic material. The combination of chlorine and organic material creates a new class of compounds known as the trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids.
If you look at a copy of your local water quality report, you’ll see these listed under the heading ‘disinfection byproducts’. Be sure to look at this report and make note of the levels present in your water.
Studies of the trihalomethanes (TTHMs) have demonstrated that they are absorbed through the skin. This occurs while showering but also while washing dishes.
You can also absorb them when inhaling steam from the shower or bath. The study showed higher levels of TTHMs in participants’ blood.
The trihalomethanes consist of a group of compounds. One of these, chloroform is of particular concern. It is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with various cancers.
In studies done by USEPA, the haloacetic acids in public water supplies were found to cause liver cancer in animals.
The findings suggest that digestion of the haloacetic acids may be linked to cancer while absorption through the skin of these compounds is minimal.
Therefore, it is more critical that these be removed from your drinking water than from the bath.
Because these compounds are caused when chlorine interacts with organic material, they are present in higher amounts when your source of water is surface water, such as a river or lake.
Groundwater is generally lacking in organic material and has lower levels of these compounds.
In an effort to reduce the levels of these compounds many cities have begun to use chloramine in place of chlorine. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia.
When using chloramine, the levels of trihalomethanes in water will be dramatically reduced. However, chloramine produces its own set of disinfection byproducts and these have yet to be evaluated as carcinogens.
They are thought to endanger human health but further study needs to take place. There is really no doubt that these are another carcinogen.
Why Go for a Whole House Water Filter?
If your goal is to be taking a shower in water free of unhealthy chemicals then a shower filter is not the answer. You need a whole house water filter.
And you need a filter that is sized in relation to the water habits of your family. By that, I mean how many water fixtures are in use when one or more persons are taking a shower.
If you only use one shower at a time, or even two, then a 2-cu ft whole house water filter will be ideal. But if you’re a family that always has loads of wash going, dishes in the dishwasher, and showers all at once then you’ll need a larger filter.
Think for a minute about the size of a 2-cu ft whole house water filter. These are generally 12” in diameter and 5 feet tall.
They may contain 3.5 lbs of KDF and 50 lbs of high-quality carbon. Compare that to your 4″ shower filter with less than an lb of KDF. Of course, the shower filter lacks the capacity to deliver healthy water to your shower.
KDF media consists of high-quality copper and zinc granules. In solution (meaning in water) these metals create a slight electrical charge between them.
It is this charge that converts the chlorine. KDF is also capable of removing a handful of heavy metals, but not at the flow rates present in a shower.
KDF is a very useful ingredient in a whole house water filter because it can enhance the effectiveness of the carbon.
Some shower filters claim to use Vitamin C to remove chlorine or chloramine. Some consumers post rave reviews about these filters. But once again their effect is minimal.
They are just too small and contain too little vitamin C to have a substantial effect on the removal of chloramine.
The water may feel better than it did without the filter because you’re achieving some reduction. They do not achieve removal and they do not remove the trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids.
Do shower filters protect your health? They don’t. They do make the water feel better and there is a benefit to the chlorine removal. You won’t be inhaling chlorine or absorbing it through your skin.
They’re better than nothing at all. But dangerous carcinogens will still be in your water. If you want to enjoy a truly healthy experience when showering in city water then you’ll need a high-quality whole house water filter.