Regularly swimming in chlorinated pools can increase your risk of asthma and other health issues.
By Lizette Borreli
While taking a quick dip in the pool can be momentarily refreshing, it can permanently have dangerous health implications for South Florida residents having use of swimming pools year round. Chlorine — used as a disinfectant and antiseptic in water purification — kills potentially dangerous bacteria. Bacteria is eliminated by the chemical reaction between chlorine’s hypochlorous acid and the cell walls of bacteria, according to Curiousity, a show on the Discovery Channel. The chemical’s ability to kill bacteria can have short term benefits, but also presents long term hazards on a person’s health.
The distinct odor can be overwhelming for many who may even find it difficult to breathe when exposed to high amounts of chlorine gas — especially in a swimming pool. The Centers For Disease Prevention And Control (CDC) says the level of poisoning brought on by chlorine depends on the person’s amount and length of time of exposure to the chemical. Moist tissues surrounding as the eyes, throat, and lungs are susceptible to come in contact with chlorine gas — a highly toxic form of chlorine that is heavier than air and settles in low-lying areas. Swimming in chlorinated pools can be a good form of exercise in moderation — 30 minutes of swimming can burn 215 to 765 calories depending on a person’s weight and swimming pace reports Everyday Health. In light of health risks, limiting your time in a chlorinated pool can help keep you safe from potentially dangerous chlorinate-related health issues that go beyond a skin rash and red eyes.
Before you decide to dive in head first into a chlorinated swimming pool, consider the possible health risks associated with increased exposure to high chlorine levels.
The odds of children developing asthma increases with exposure to chlorine, presumably mediated by nitrogen trichloride (NCI) (3) — a byproduct of chemical reactions between ammonia and chlorine that can damage the respiratory thin tissue in children and increase their risk of lung disease. In a study conducted from Catholic University in Belgium, researchers found that regularly visiting chlorinated pools is associated with an increased risk in developing asthma in young children.
Chlorine indirectly contributes to allergies through the irritation and sensitizing of the respiratory tract. Experiencing itchiness, red skin or hives is not an allergy but the result of an irritant dermatitis — similar to a chemical burn says the American College of Allergy, Asthma And Immunology (ACAAI) caused by hypersensitivity to chlorine. Children who do not have allergic tendencies did not have an increased risk of developing allergies based on the same asthma study conducted in Catholic University in Belgium. Researchers also found that the risk of asthma and allergy remained unaffected by swimming in cooper-silver sanitized pools.
People who engage in competitive swimming are prone to bronchospasm — airway narrowing that occurs during or after exercise or physical exertion says Mayo Clinic. While the condition is often reported in a variety of sports, it is more common in indoor sports like ice-skating and swimming. In a study published in the journal of Sports Health, researchers examined literature from 2000 to 2010 to differentiate between exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) and exercise-induced asthma. The results of this study showed that there was an unclear difference found between the two terms and they were lead to believe that EIB most commonly occurs in elite-level athletes and competitors in any cold-weather sports, such as Nordic skiing or indoor sports such as swimming.
Dental Enamel Erosion
Pools that are not properly chlorinated can cause rapid and excessive erosion of dental enamel, when acids wear away the enamel on a person’s teeth. New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry’s Dr. Leila Jahangiri told NYU’s news publication “improper pH levels can result in irreversible damage to one’s teeth.” “Case studies show that the effect occurs when the pH of the water ranges between 2.7 and 7.” In an epidemiologic survey made of 747 private club pool members published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, it was found that symptoms related to dental enamel erosion were reported by 3 percent nonswimmers, 12 percent of swimmers who were not members of the swim team and 39 percent of swim team members. The swimmers that were clinically verified with dental enamel erosion prior to the study trained regularly in the pool for competitive meets.
Spontaneous Abortion and Stillbirths In Pregnant Women
Swimming is popular among pregnant women because it can ease pregnancy symptoms while helping them maintain their muscle strength and relieve weight-bearing strain on the lower extremities. However, expectant mothers who swim in chlorinated pools can actually harm their fetus due to the toxic chemicals like chloroform, formed by a chemical reaction between chlorine and organic matter, says the U.S. Department of the Interior and the United States Geological Survey. Belina Phipps, from the National Childbirth Trust, told BBC News that she supports the call for reducing chlorine content of swimming pool water since vast number of pregnant women in the United Kingdom swim and do aqua exercise programs as a means of fun and to help them cope with their pregnancy. In reference to the potential risks of chloroform and pregnancy – Phipps said “[it] offers a simple solution to limit chemical levels in swimming pool water by reducing the amount of chlorine used — a measure which the NCT would strongly support.” Reducing the amount of chemicals used would not only be beneficial to pregnant women but to all swimmers alike.
Bladder cancer has been linked to exposure of chlorine by-products in drinking water and through inhalation and dermal absorption. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers observed whether bladder cancer risk was associated with exposure through trihalomethanes (THMs) while swimming in pools. The results of the study showed participants who drank chlorinated water had a 35 percent greater risk of bladder cancer compared to their counterparts, and swimmers who regularly swam in chlorinated pools had 57 percent greater risk of developing bladder cancer.