5 Hidden Health Hazards Lurking in Your Bathroom

When it comes to bathroom risks, two categories likely come to mind. One is about…

When it comes to bathroom risks, two categories likely come to mind. One is about the dangerous germs that lurk in public bathrooms (one useful tip? Avoid touching the handle of the door when you leave!). Another is about bathroom habits—which changes could signal trouble, for example, or which ones are unhealthy.

But dangers in the bathroom aren’t limited to the disgusting public restroom at the library that you had no choice but to use, or your habit of bringing your cell phone when you use the toilet (another tip: don’t do that, as it can cause an uncomfortable health condition). Read on to find out about five hazards lurking in your bathroom that you might not be aware of.

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While you may associate the risk of slipping and falling with the elderly, it actually affects people of all ages. Slippery, hard, and unexpectedly wet surfaces can cause anyone to fall. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that an estimated 234,000 people ages 15 and older in the U.S. were treated in an emergency department for non-fatal bathroom-related injuries in 2008. That’s an average of about 640 people a day.

Judy Stevens, lead author of the study, told ABC News that “what was interesting in this study was that even though the injury rates were lower in younger people, people of all ages fell in the shower or tub. This supports the recommendation of having grab bars installed inside and outside the tub and shower.”

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Woman cleaning her ear with a q-tip.
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Is there anything that looks more harmless than the little cotton tuft at the end of a Q-tip? But Healthline reports that using a cotton swab to clean out your ear can result in injury or infection. People may inadvertently penetrate too deeply while cleaning, or slip with a Q-tip lodged in their ear, causing damage to the eardrum.

“A study from 2017 looked at cotton swab-related ear injuries in children between the years of 1990 and 2010,” says the site. “They found that about 73 percent of ear injuries from cotton swabs were associated with ear cleaning.” In another study of patients with ruptured eardrums, “a penetrating injury was found to be the cause in 44 percent of the cases.” Healthline recommends safely cleaning ears by softening the ear wax first with baby oil and irrigating the ear with warm water, followed by draining and drying it.

Person's hand opening toilet lid.
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An open toilet lid isn’t just a matter of bad etiquette. When you flush a toilet and don’t close the lid, you’re essentially triggering a volcanic effect of bacteria that will linger in the air for a half hour. “Leaving toilet lids open after flushing can disperse contaminated droplets beyond a meter and remain in the air for 30 minutes,” says Science Daily. And that’s just in the comfort of your own private bathroom. When it comes to public restrooms, “Open-lid toilet flushing, ineffective hand washing or hand drying, poor surface cleaning, blocked drains and uncovered rubbish bins all contribute to heavy bacterial and viral loads,” the site says.

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Mold fungus and rust growing in tile joints in damp poorly ventilated bathroom with high humidity, wtness, moisture and dampness problem in bath areas and shower.
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Mold is known for potentially causing a variety of adverse reactions. And while you might not think you have a mold problem in your bathroom, you might not be looking closely enough, says Matt Cinelli, owner/operator of AERC Removals. He tells HouseLogic that a lack of proper ventilation is the main cause of mold growth. “It could be starting in the bathroom but actually forming in another room,” he says.

The site advises to “check out hidden areas, such as under sinks, access doors to shower and bath fixtures, around exhaust fans, even in crawl spaces and basements underneath bathrooms” when looking for mold.

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It’s bubbly, it’s lathery, it’s sweet-smelling… but your shampoo could have some dangerous chemicals in it. “The ingredients in shampoos aim to give your hair instant results,” says WebMD. “However, the long-term effects can be devastating.” These effects range from problems like dryness of the scalp and clogged pores to far more serious health concerns such as cancer, hormonal disruptions, and congenital problems, the site warns. WebMD suggests choosing shampoos that are made of plant-based or organic ingredients, and to avoid products with ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and sulfate (among others).