Chlorine has long been the additive of choice for swimming pools to keep them clean and sanitized. It is a powerful disinfectant which kills the harmful bacteria, making our pools safe to swim in. But chlorine also has become recognized as a harmful chemical capable of causing illnesses and cancers. Many of us drink bottled or filtered water just to avoid drinking the chemical which is added to public drinking water. Some us of have whole house filters which allow us to wash and bathe in non-chlorinated water. Well, swimming in chlorine is almost as bad as drinking it because the chlorine is absorbed through the skin. And we’ve all experienced the smell of chlorine when walking by, or into, a building with an indoor pool. Chlorine gas is toxic and inhaling it – especially for long periods – can cause respiratory problems.
What Are the Main Problems Caused by Swimming in Chlorine?
Chlorine is an irritant to the lungs and can initiate an asthma attack to someone who is susceptible. It can also cause wheezing and difficulty breathing. Burning to the nasal passages is common after long exposures indoors. Lung infections have been reported after inhaling chlorine gas from indoor pools.
Anyone who has gone swimming in a pool knows how irritating chlorine can be if you don’t wear goggles. Swollen, red eyes are common as well as infections.
Nausea and GI upset can occur from non-intentional water swallowing.
Skin and Hair
It is thought that repeated exposures to chlorine are a cause of certain skin cancers. Chlorine actually kills the good bacteria on the skin and destroys the vitamin E. Skin irritations and rashes are common, and t also dries out the skin. Premature wrinkles are common. Hair becomes bleached and brittle. Yuck.
Would you take a bath in a tub full of chemicals?
When you go swimming, you are most likely soaking in chlorine. But there are things you can do to minimize the dangers (other than wearing a wet suit).
Take a shower as soon as you get out.
Getting the chlorine off your body is obviously important.
Shower or wet your skin before you get in.
Wet skin will absorb less water than dry skin – and showering first helps keep the pool cleaner (and it will need less chlorine)!
Swim outdoors if you have the choice.
Don’t subject yourself to breathing the fumes more than you have to.
Use the least amount of chlorine possible.
Use Vitamin C.
Vitamin C neutralizes chlorine, so take some vitamin C immediately before and after swimming in a pool treated with chlorine. You can also buy powdered or crystallized vitamin C (available at Trader Joe’s, for one). Dissolve about 1/2 teaspoon in four ounces of water and put it in a spray bottle, then saturate your skin.
A Quick Look at Alternatives
The most popular alternative to chlorine is salt. Replacing your chlorine with a salt system might have a higher initial investment, but the long-term savings are worth it – you won’t be paying money for chemicals. The main requirement is the addition of salt every few months. And although the salt does generate some chlorine, it is in no way nearly as much and it won’t be noticed. But there are a couple of drawbacks – salt does corrode some types of pools, and the salt system needs replacement after a certain amount of time.
In short, bromine is a chemical that cleans and sterilizes like chlorine, but it is more stable in warm temperatures so it is usually used in hot tubs. It doesn’t smell like chlorine but it is more expensive than chlorine.
Metals copper and silver work via a current to attract and neutralize bacteria and germs. It is usually used in conjunction with a small amount of chlorine and needs the pump for it to work.
From what I read these really don’t work.
Do you have a swimming pool? How do you deal with the health issues associated with chlorine?