Swimming is a lot of fun. It’s a great way to work out, get fit, and stay healthy!
There are some downfalls, though. Chlorine water can harm your health and cause serious complications. And while it’s used to prevent bacteria and algae contamination, it’s a bad news for our bodies.
This doesn’t mean you need to skip the pool. Be aware of these five risks and learn how to protect yourself.1
5 Side Effects Of Chlorine In Pools
1. Tooth Erosion
A pool’s pH can seriously impact your health. Once chlorine is added, it needs to be adjusted to 7.5 – but a range of 7.2 and 8.0 is acceptable. This is done with soda ash or Na2CO3.
If there isn’t enough soda ash, the water’s pH will decrease. This low pH can actually erode your teeth and quickly cause dental damage. Saliva can’t even protect you because of the water. Often, the upper front teeth are affected.
Unfortunately, you can’t sense low pH. Competitive swimmers are also more likely to have dental erosions compared to recreational ones.2
2. Allergy Development
Chlorine can produce new allergies that don’t even have to do with swimming, especially in kids who are still growing.
According to the journal Environmental Research, childhood swimming is strongly linked to higher blood counts of allergy-related proteins. Girls are more likely to develop pet allergies, while boys commonly have dust mite allergies. Both sexes are prone to pollen allergy and asthma caused by chlorine water.
The more a child swims, the greater the risk for these allergies. It’s all because chlorine can seriously stress out the body and cause inflammation.3
3. Higher Asthma Risk
Early exposure to chlorine water is also linked to asthma. Specifically, infants have the greatest risk, as chlorine can mess with normal development. It makes the lungs more sensitive to infection and asthma-related agents, causing problems later on in life.
Additionally, bronchiolitis is likely, which can lead to asthma.4
4. Respiratory Irritation
Respiratory health is a major concern of chlorine pools. It’s all because of the urea in sweat and urine of swimmers.5
When these bodily secretions interact with chlorine, trichloramine (NCl₃) develops. This is actually what causes that “chlorine smell” we’re all familiar with.6
It’s also dangerous for human health. Trichloramine causes chest tightness, difficulty breathing, and headaches. It’s also responsible for eye, nose, and throat irritation. Even sneezing and coughing can develop because of trichloramine.7
5. Poor Lung Function
Trichloramine’s effect may be so bad that it harms your lungs. Even acute exposure leads to poor function and damage. In frequent swimmers, higher rates of airway inflammation and bronchial irritation are more likely.8
While chlorine-induced allergies are common in children, lung damage knows no age. Both children and adults are susceptible to lower lung function.9
How To Protect Yourself
1. Reduce Frequency
To minimize health risks, limit the frequency of pool time. A number of swimming sessions are a major factor of these health problems.10 Making it an occasional habit will reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.
2. Decrease Length Of Time
You can also decrease the duration of each swim. If this isn’t feasible, take frequent breaks and head outside. It’s a great way to inhale fresh air and give your lungs a rest.
3. Go Outdoors
Indoor pools don’t have a lot of breathing room. When possible, swim in an outdoor pool for optimal ventilation. Consider using indoor chlorinated pools during the cooler months and heading outside when it’s warm.
When you’re done taking a dip, shower immediately. It’ll decrease how long you inhale the chemicals. For best results, use a soap that’s gentle and natural.
5. Wear Goggles
It might seem inconvenient, but protective gear will make a huge difference. Goggles are great for protecting your eyes. You can even wear a wetsuit to limit exposure.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑10||Buczkowska-Radlińska, J., R. Łagocka, W. Kaczmarek, M. Górski, and A. Nowicka. “Prevalence of dental erosion in adolescent competitive swimmers exposed to gas-chlorinated swimming pool water.” Clinical oral investigations 17, no. 2 (2013): 579-583.|
|↑3||Bernard, Alfred, Marc Nickmilder, and Xavier Dumont. “Chlorinated pool attendance, airway epithelium defects and the risks of allergic diseases in adolescents: interrelationships revealed by circulating biomarkers.” Environmental research 140 (2015): 119-126.|
|↑4||Voisin, C., A. Sardella, F. Marcucci, and A. Bernard. “Infant swimming in chlorinated pools and the risks of bronchiolitis, asthma and allergy.” European Respiratory Journal 36, no. 1 (2010): 41-47.|
|↑5||Afifi, Mehrnaz Zare, and Ernest R. Blatchley. “Seasonal dynamics of water and air chemistry in an indoor chlorinated swimming pool.” Water research 68 (2015): 771-783p|
|↑6||Trichloramine. American Chemical Society.|
|↑7||Nitrogen Trichloride. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.|
|↑8||Uyan, Z. S., S. Carraro, G. Piacentini, and E. Baraldi. “Swimming pool, respiratory health, and childhood asthma: should we change our beliefs?.” Pediatric pulmonology 44, no. 1 (2009): 31-37.|
|↑9||Di Napoli, A., N. Agabiti, C. Ancona, F. Forastiere, Presti E. Lo, G. M. Corbo, F. D’Orsi, and C. A. Perucci. “Respiratory effects of exposure to chlorine vapors during a swimming pool accident in a recreational center in Rome.” Epidemiologia e prevenzione 26, no. 5 (2001): 240-247.|