Dry Skin, Sore Throats - And Cancer?  

by Pool Builders on 10-08-2013 in Articles

Significant Health Risks Caused By Chlorinated Pools
(A brief history of pool sanitation)

During the hot, sticky months of summer, nothing is as refreshing as a dip in the pool. The cool, clear water provides a refuge from soaring temperatures. For pool owners, maintenance has never been easier. Chlorine solution, as well as regularly monitoring pH level, is all it takes to keep a pool sparkling and clear. Using chlorine in swimming pools has become so popular, few ask themselves a seemingly harmless question - what exactly am I swimming in?

Chlorine was first discovered in 1744 by Karl Scheele, a Swedish chemist. In the early 1900s, its primary function was revealed. In an attempt to resolve the cholera outbreak in London, Doctor John Snow used chlorine to treat their primary water supply. It was successful. Drinking water began to undergo the chlorination process. This resulted in an overall decrease of disease, securing chlorination as the primary way to disinfect water. Even now, chlorine is still the most popular way to treat drinking water. Thanks to its long history of purifying water, most pool owners perceive chlorine the same way as they perceive water. Clean. Safe. Once a pool has been treated with chlorine, pool owners believe they have no more worries. But although chlorine successfully kills bacteria, it has many negative side effects.

The negative effects of chlorine start with simple, irritating woes. Chlorine tends to have a strong, pungent smell that's off putting to some. It also tends to fade fabrics, resulting in worn out swimming suits after just one summer season. Chlorine is also known to degrade the pool equipment at an accelerated rate due to the corrosive nature of the harsh chemical. But the hardest truth about chlorine is that although it kills harmful bacteria, it is known to cause health issues from asthma to irritated skin. The bottom line is a long-term exposure to chlorine isn't safe for ones health. The various health issues include:

-- Irritated Skin: When too much chlorine is used in pools, it can result in irritated, itchy skin. With an off pH balance, chlorinated water becomes too acidic or too alkaline. However, even with perfectly balanced pH levels, individuals with overly sensitive skin can experience discomfort. Starting with just flaky skin, chlorine can also cause red, itchy skin or hives. Over time, minor skin irritation can lead to great issues that may enlist the help of a dermatologist.

-- Asthma & Respiratory Issues: Ever have a sore throat after taking a dip? It's likely from the chlorine. Chlorine is a respiratory irritant, meaning that it can cause headaches, sneezing, nausea, dyspnoea, and even esophageal perforation. While low-level exposure can simply cause a runny nose, frequent, high-level exposure is what leads to more significant health risks. Esophageal perforation, when there's a hole in your esophagus, can occur with the ingestion of harmful chemicals such as chlorine. Chronic exposure, which is over an extended period of time, can also lead to acne and chest pains. Those subject to asthma are at a higher risk for chlorine caused ailments.

-- Cancer: Nowadays, it seems like everything can be a possible cause of cancer. However, in the case of chlorine, it's scientifically proven. Chlorine contains disinfectant by products that in the long term, can cause cancer. These by products include trihalomethanes, which are formed when chlorine reacts to matter such as leaves, dirt, urine, sweat, and skin cells in water. Trihalomethanes have been identified by the EPA as a cancer causing agent, due to carcinogenic activity in lab experiments. Chronic exposure to chlorine has been linked to cancers of the bladder, colon and rectum. While there hasn't been an overwhelming amount of studies relating to cancer directly caused by chlorine, the evidence proves there is certainly a heightened risk.

So if we don't use chlorine, how do we disinfect pools? And how urgent is that need? In a 2010 interview with Discovery News, Manolis Kogevinas stressed over the recent findings about chlorine. An epidemiologist at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Kogevinas stated that although swimming in pools isn't extremely hazardous, alternatives to chlorine should be implemented. Fortunately, in an effort to go green and decrease the use of harmful chemicals, great strides have been made in finding alternatives to chlorine.

Turns out, there is an alternative to using chlorine in swimming pools and spas. Experts suggest a positive alternative is a fresh water system (not to be confused with a salt chlorinator that produces chlorine from the salt [sodium chloride] in the pool water). Companies such as ClearSwim provide fresh water, requiring no additives or chemicals to the pool water, thus avoiding harsh chemicals (such as chlorine and cyanuric acid/conditioner) completely. ClearSwim also provides a low-maintenance solution for the pool or spa. In addition to a clear, clean pool, your swimmers won't be at risk of chlorine causing health issues. To read more on fresh water pools and spas go to www.clearswim.com.

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