Swimming pools are a popular source of recreation and exercise, but the presence of chlorine in these pools can raise some health concerns. Chlorine is commonly used to disinfect swimming pools and keep them free of harmful bacteria and pathogens, but it can also have harmful effects on human health.
Trihalomethanes (THMs) Formation
When chlorine is added to water, it can react with organic matter present in the water to form Trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are a group of disinfection by-products (DBPs) and have been shown to have potential health effects. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), long-term exposure to high levels of THMs in drinking water can increase the risk of some health effects, including cancer.
Skin and Eye Irritation
Chlorine can be harsh on the skin and eyes, causing itching, redness, and dryness. Swimming in a pool that has high levels of chlorine can irritate the skin and eyes, making it uncomfortable to swim. People with skin conditions such as eczema or sensitive skin may experience even more severe reactions to chlorine in pools.
Inhaling chlorine gas or breathing in chlorine fumes while swimming in a pool can cause respiratory issues. Chlorine gas is a strong irritant to the sensitive tissues and bronchial passages inside the lungs, and inhaling it can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. People with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, may be more sensitive to the effects of chlorine fumes.
Increased Risk of Cancer
While the evidence is not conclusive, some studies suggest that long-term exposure to chlorine in swimming pools may increase the risk of certain types of cancer, such as bladder cancer and rectal cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified chlorination by-products, including THMs, as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The use of chlorine in swimming pools also raises environmental concerns. Chlorine is a strong oxidizing agent that can cause damage to aquatic life and the environment. When chlorine is added to a swimming pool, it can form chloramines, which are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Chloramines can also leach into groundwater and pollute nearby rivers and streams.
While chlorine is a commonly used disinfectant in swimming pools, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers and concerns associated with its use. To minimize the risks associated with chlorine, it is recommended to limit the amount of time spent in chlorinated pools and to shower before and after swimming to remove any chlorine residue from the skin and hair. People with skin and respiratory conditions should take extra precautions and consult with their healthcare provider before swimming in a chlorinated pool.