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What Is In The Gunk In Your Home?

What Is In The Gunk In Your Home?


Airdate: 11/15/2012

Disgusting gunk almost certainly exists in every house. The question is, could it be dangerous to your health?

We wanted to find out what kind of bacteria could be lurking in homes so we asked Dr. Joseph Falkinham, a professor of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech University, to see what kind of gunk he could find in two beautiful homes in Blacksburg, Virginia.

He collected samples from the hot water heater, shower pipes and filtered water tap.

“It's actually quite reflective making me think there's some kind of slime there,” he said while examining one of the samples.  

We found green film in a pipe in the shower, black goo in one of the faucets and pink slime inside a refrigerator door water tap.

One of the homeowners, Joe Merola, was shocked.

 “That's disgusting,” he said as INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero showed him a sample from the faucet.

And Tim and Anne Howland couldn't believe the gook we uncovered in their refrigerator tap.

“This is from your drinking water,” explained Guerrero.  The Howland’s both responded with “Yuck!”

So what's in all that gunk we collected?  Dr. Falkinham tested the samples at his lab and said the results were concerning.

We found more than 200,000 colonies of bacteria in water taken from a filtered faucet including harmful strains that in a weakened immune system can cause legionnaire's disease, pneumonia and skin lesions.

And in the refrigerator tap? Tests reveal it's contaminated with bacteria that can trigger lung disease.

But the worst by far was a showerhead where more than 1 million colonies of bacteria were growing, most of them a strain that can cause tuberculosis when inhaled in hot water vapor.

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable, Falkinham said.

The Howland’s said they’re concerned because their six-year-old son, Jackson, suffers from asthma.

Fortunately, there are easy solutions. Dr. Falkinham suggests soaking your showerhead in a bucket of bleach for 30 minutes once a month.

As for the drinking water, he says the safest water comes straight from the tap. But if you want to use a filter, he has this advice for you:

“In the filter, the organisms are actually growing,” he said. “All they need to do is to consider changing their filters much more frequently.”

Guerrero asked Falkinham, “Could there be health problems for this family, according to what you found?”

 “If the family was unusually susceptible to some of these diseases, yes,” he responded.


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