What Are the Dangers of Chlorine in Heated Swimming Pools?
Swimming pools offer a respite from summer heat as well as an effective way to exercise. Whether heated or unheated, many pools use chlorine to prevent bacteria growth in the water. While the chemical is effective for this purpose, there are dangers associated with the use of chlorine in swimming pools.
The San Diego State University’s Swimming Science Journal reported that children who frequent chlorinated pools have reported higher levels of respiratory problems such as wheezing and asthma. Organic compounds such as sweat and skin cells can react to heightened chlorine levels to form trihalomethanes, which can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation with prolonged exposure.
This is most common when the chlorine levels are higher than what is recommended for safe use. Swimmers absorb the highest levels of chlorine products through the skin, and heated water can accelerate the absorption slightly.
Skin and Hair Irritation
Excessive levels of chlorine can cause irritations such as burns or rashes on the skin. Even lower amounts can react with cosmetics and skin or sun lotion to create an inflammatory response on the skin.
A similar reaction can occur in the hair, resulting in hair discoloration. Bleached hair runs a higher risk of this side effect, and may be tinted green with extended exposure to chlorine. The irritations may be slightly higher in heated pools, because high water temperature can further irritate rashes that are already forming from the chlorine.
Cancer Risk Possibility
The triahalomethanes that form from the combination of chlorine and organic material are associated with higher levels of bladder and rectal cancer when ingested, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It remains uncertain if chlorine itself is the cause of such cancers or if there is another cause from the chlorination process involving drinking water. The carcinogenic effects of chlorine from inhalation exposure remain unknown, so the EPA has not classified chlorine for carcinogenic effects.
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