Danger of Chlorine in Swimming Pools

Woman descending into a chlorinated pool
Learn about the dangers of chlorine-<em>before</em> your next swim!

The danger of chlorine in swimming pools has been widely reported. Let's separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of this potential hazard.

The Importance of Chlorine

First, here's why many people use chlorine in their swimming pools:

  • Chlorine, even a low concentration, kills bacteria very quickly and easily.
  • It kills alga at higher concentrations.
  • Chlorine breaks down oils, lotions and skin flakes, more commonly known as "bather waste".

Increasingly, however, pool owners have wondered if all that chlorine that's intended to help them is actually harming their health. Let's take a look at the facts.

Danger of Chlorine in Swimming Pools: The Facts

Here are the facts, as they've been reported thus far, about the danger of chlorine in swimming pools:

A Skin Irritant

We all know what that "chemical" feel of a pool is when we come across it; stinging, blurry eyes and that chemical smell! Now, numerous scientific studies are reporting that chlorine water can be a skin irritant. It's even been associated with skin rashes like eczema.

This is because chlorinated water has the ability to destroy polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E naturally housed in the body, while at the same time, generating toxins that produce free radicals. If you've noticed that your skin is growing increasingly irritated by your chlorinated pool, consider supplementing your diet. Some doctors recommend supplementing it with some essential fatty acids, like flax seed oil and vitamin E. Additionally, along with eczema, chlorine has also been shown to aggravate existing skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and seborrhea.

Compounds Called Trihalomethanes

What are triahalomethanes and why should they matter to you? For starters, trihalomethanes are carcinogens that result from the combination of chlorine and organic compounds in water. These chemicals do not degrade very well and are usually stored in the fatty tissues of the body.

At first glance, that may not seem so bad, but when you consider that some of those "fatty tissues" consists of the breasts, and by extension, mother's milk, you begin to understand why some people are growing increasingly concerned.

Further, these chemicals also known as organochlorides, besides being stored in mother's milk, have been found in other fluids in the body. Namely, blood and semen. The result can be extremely harmful since organochlorides can cause mutations in DNA, suppress the immune function of the body and interfere with cell growth.

Other Health Concerns

Unfortunately, the list of dangers of chlorinated swimming pools goes on. Chlorine, especially in children who frequent chlorinated pools, has also been documented as an aggravating factor in asthma. Several studies have also linked chlorine and chlorinated by-products to:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Bowel difficulties

Additionally, scientists are exploring a link between treated chlorinated tap water and congenital cardiac anomalies.

Key Facts

Here are some key facts for you to consider, as it may help you decide if chlorine is the right choice for you and your family:

  • Competitive swimmers absorb toxic levels of chlorine during the course of a training session.
  • Children inhale more air per unit of body weight than adults. Therefore, children absorb a greater amount of toxins, relatively speaking, than older swimmers.
  • Amazingly, in hyper-chlorinated pools, dental enamel can become eroded because of increased levels of acidity.
  • While greater toxin absorption occurs through the skin than through breathing, the breathing action alone is sufficient enough, at least in some swimmers, to cause hyper sensitivity and "asthma like" respiratory conditions.

Safety Tips?

While the reported danger of chlorine in swimming pools is scary, there are a few things you can do to keep you and yours safe.

  • Don't over chlorinate your pool: The logic behind this is easy to see: Chlorine kills bacteria, so more chlorine probably keeps even safer. Don't be fooled. This is a fallacy. Chlorine is pretty powerful stuff, so sticking to the recommended amount will help reduce your chances of harming your health.
  • Limit your time in the water: This can be hard to do, especially if you're training professionally for a meet or similar competition, but in light of the health risks, it's something worth considering. If you must spend a lot of time in a pool, then think about adding those previously mentioned essentials fatty acids to your diet.
  • Shop for an alternative: There are alternatives to chlorine for cleaning your pool. It may well be worth your time to check them out by paying a visit to your local pool shop or doing a little research online.
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Danger of Chlorine in Swimming Pools