Chlorine Alternative - Swimming Pool Options for the Conscientious Consumer

by Pool Builders on 11-21-2007 in Articles

For the consumer who's becoming aware of the hazards of chlorine, alternative swimming pool options are becoming increasingly high on the radar. Recent studies in the US and elsewhere have found links between exposure to chlorine in pools, and asthma, stillbirths, birth defects, and lung damage!When I recently went to research chlorine alternative swimming pool solutions, I was confronted with a plethora of options, all claiming to be the answer to the problem.

I also found that there is very little agreement about what is the best real alternative option! I think this really leaves consumers in a bind-clearly, if you're concerned about your family's health, you're not looking for 15 different sources, who all tell you that such-and-such an option might work-you're looking for one or two sources that can confidently tell you what will work! A lot's riding on this, after all: if you're looking for an alternative, the stakes are your family's health, as well as your pocket book! This is the reason I am starting this site-to try to provide more definitive, and better-digested information on the subject.

Here, for starters, is a summary of what I have found so far.

Ozone Generators

Of all the chlorine alternative swimming pool options mentioned in the dozens of articles I researched, the most attention goes to ozonation systems. They work by pumping the water through ozone, or O3. Ozone reacts with any organic compounds that it comes in contact with, destroying them. (This is the same thing that happens with chlorine, by the way-but whereas it reacts by releasing a number of toxic compounds, ozone reacts by producing... oxygen!)

Ozone generation provides three of the four required traits of a pool sanitization system. The only one they don't provide, is protection from algae. While algae is natural, and not generally considered harmful, it's an aesthetic issue-and for this reason, pools that are outdoors require some form of algaecide to complement the power of the ozone generation. All of the half dozen or so articles I read on this subject talked about using a trace amount of chlorine-perhaps one tenth of the normal amount-to handle this problem.

Ozone has been used for sanitizing pools in Europe for decades, even on the Olympic size swimming pool level. But here, it's still considered "new," or "experimental". It is, however, gaining in popularity.

Ultraviolet Radiation

There was a lot less information about ultraviolet, although several articles mentioned it. Basically what they said could be summed up as: (1) it works and is very harmless; (2) it's new and hasn't been tried very much. Basically, given that this is very similar to ozone, which I think has a lot longer track record, a lot of the alternative people are still going with ozone.

Ionization (Copper, or Copper + Silver)

This method involves the introduction of silver, or a combination of silver and copper, and ionizing these metals as a way to sterilize the water. Again, this was mentioned less, but those who did mention it seemed to fall into the following three camps: (1) some people said it works great, and they swear by it, (2) some people who said it was just very expensive, and (3) the skeptics, who said it never quite worked.

Salt Water Generation

Here is another method that got a lot of mixed reviews. This is a device that you put salt into, and it converts the salt into chlorine. Apparently very popular in the Southwest, it was reported by some that the odor and other perceptible effects of were much less than with the normal application of the chemical. However, a number of articles pointed out that this was still chlorine, so it was not seen as a real solution. It sounds like we need more research, or more first-hand testimonies, as to how this method works, and if people really do feel better with this type of system. Is it really healthier? (Please comment if you have an opinion.)


Bromine is a more expensive chemical used as an alternative to chlorine, but is really only seen as slightly better, and is chemically very similar. Bromine is frequently used in spas, and in my experience, is not as unpleasant, but is still far from ideal.

Other chemicals

There is a "raft" of other chemicals (no pun intended!) that various companies advertise as chlorine alternative swimming pool solutions. They all seem to work by oxidation. The main complaint I read about these from people was, that they are just very expensive.


I hope this article provided, at the very least, a helpful summary of the various options available.

If I were to draw one conclusion from my research so far, it would be this: Of all the chlorine alternative swimming pool options available at this time, the one that seems the most economical, reliable, and least-toxic, definitely sounds to be an ozone generator system.

Please feel free to comment on this article, and share your perspective on any of the options mentioned!

Leave a Comment

List YOUR Pool Business