Two research studies have been carried out recently concerning chlorine by products in the air above swimming pools and in particular, indoor swimming pools. The results of these studies have raised serious doubts about letting young children swim in chlorinated pools because of the harm that could be caused to their health for life. They may suffer an increased risk of lung infections, lifelong asthma and respiratory allergies.
Swimming is a great way for children to get exercise and it is fun too
But if chlorinated pools carry risks, what can parents do to make this pastime healthy and safe?
Research studies have had disturbing results
One study was carried out by researchers from Catholic University Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, and published in the European Respiratory Journal
. Their study suggested that chlorinated pool attendance can increase the risk of asthma and respiratory allergies by making the airways more sensitive not only to allergens but also to infectious agents, according to senior researcher Alfred Bernard. The researchers further believe that chlorine in swimming pools may combine with sweat, saliva and urine from swimmers to produce chemicals that irritate and weaken the lungs. In the weaker, developing lungs of children, this can raise the risk of infection. They also found that, although indoor pools increased infection risk more than outdoor pools, there was still a risk with the latter.
Another study was carried out by the Occupational Lung Disease Unit at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital in the UK. They found that nitrogen trichloride (produced by chlorine) is a cause of occupational asthma in indoor swimming pool workers such as lifeguards and swim instructors. It was further noted that during the Olympic Games held in Australia, more than one quarter of the American swim team suffered from some degree of asthma.
More about the health effects from swimming pool disinfection
On the their website http://www.lenntech.com state that too much chlorine can cause eczema
and rashes while water that has a high pH value increases susceptibility to these kind of ailments. They say that hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and hypochlorite (OCl-) are the main components of free active chlorine. Swimming pool water has a high pH value and the amount of dissolved chlorine gas as free active chlorine is negligible. Free active chlorine hardly ever causes eye irritations. These only occur above concentrations of 20 mg/L. Dissolved chlorine and chlorine substances dehydrate hair and skin. The air above the pool contains chlorine gas concentrations between 0,01 and 0,1 mg/m3. These concentrations are far below the level that irritates respirational tracts. Through the formation of combined active chlorine, free active chlorine can cause irritation.
The problem arises when chlorine combines with pollutants
Combined active chlorine is the generic term for reaction products produced by free active chlorine with organic and inorganic nitrogen pollutants. These pollutants are made of swimmers excretion products
. Combined active chlorine is a complex mixture of partly unknown substances, such as chlorine ureum combinations, chloramines and chlorine kreatines. Monochloramines cause eye irritations. At normal pH levels in swimming pools, monochloramine is produced predominantly. These substances reach the eyes through water and through the air above the pool. Other chlorinated organic substances are suspected to irritate the air tracts as well.
To be safer, combined active chlorine concentration in swimming pools should be below 1 mg/l
This web site also reports on a Dutch research carried out in 2001 by Abvakabo Nederland, concerning working conditions in swimming pools. Swimming pool attendants were interviewed. The research shows that a lot of employees suffered from forgetfulness, fatigue, chronic colds, voice problems, eye irritations, headache, sore throat, eczema and frontal sinus inflammation. Fertility problems were also mentioned.
Working conditions in swimming pools
The study concluded that all these problems were probably caused by working conditions. The people worked long hours in a warm, humid environment and were exposed to chemical substances. Swimming pool ventilation is often insufficient and volatile disinfection byproducts remain. They also found that If swimming pool attendants did not work, health problems vanished and a sense of health returned.
There is a need for alternative and safer methods of treating swimming pools to be investigated and utilized for the sake of our children’s health as well as our own.