As parents, we do everything we can to protect our kids from potential harm. We make healthy changes for our kids, including making sure they get outside and get enough sleep. We watch for toxins in their toothpaste and avoid buying snacks with food dyes. We get them adjusted and filter toxins like chlorine from their drinking water.
We are cautious of the effects of chlorine when it comes to drinking water, yet we allow them to swim in a public pool full of chlorine and other chemicals.
Most parents don’t think twice about the safety of pool chemicals. After all, they’re put there for our safety, right? Chlorine kills pathogens and harmful bacteria that might make our kids sick because, unfortunately, water isn’t the only thing in the pool. People come with all sorts of bacteria—and that means children, too!
The chemicals are there to disinfect the water and get rid of things like bacteria and algae. If chlorine can kill off living organisms, what might the health hazards of chlorine levels in swimming pool water be?
HOW IS POOL CHLORINE HARMFUL?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the following as examples of symptoms of chlorine exposure:
- Blurred vision
- Skin injuries similar to frostbite can occur with exposure to liquid chlorine
- Chest tightness
- Burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery eyes
- Fluid in the lungs that last a few hours
The CDC points out that the extent of poisoning depends on the amount of chlorine exposure. (1)
Children who play in chlorinated swimming pools absorb chlorine through their skin. They also tend to ingest more of that chlorine water than they should.
DBPs and HAAs
When you think of water parks or hotel pools, do you think of the chlorine smell? Or you may think of the burning it causes your eyes. These experiences aren’t caused by chlorine directly but by the chemical reaction of chlorine when it interacts with organic compounds like sweat, urine, or bacteria. This chemical reaction results in disinfection byproducts (DBPs). In 2002, over 600 water DBPs were found in chlorinated tap water, including HAAs, or haloacetic acids. (2)
HAAs have the potential to be harmful over long-term exposure. They’re also classified as human carcinogens. At high levels, they are detrimental to the liver, nervous system, and reproductive system. One study found that swimmers had detectable levels of HAAs in their urine 20-30 minutes after a swim in a chlorinated pool. (3)
The gases released by chlorinated pools are associated with an increased risk of rectal and bladder cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that children who regularly swim in chlorinated pools have increased rates of asthma and allergies. The chemicals irritate the airways and lungs. (4)
We know the chemicals aren’t good for us. Anyone who has swum in an overchlorinated pool has experienced itchy, dry skin or dry, brittle hair. These chemicals can add to our toxic load and have long-term impacts. What can a parent do to reduce chlorine exposure?
HOW TO REDUCE CHLORINE EXPOSURE
There are tradeoffs and potential risks with just about any activity, including swimming, but there are ways you can reduce chlorine exposure.
1 – LIMIT The USE OF CHLORINATED POOLS
This isn’t always possible, but avoid chlorinated pools when you can. Find a natural body of water and enjoy the benefits of the beach. There are also growing numbers of saltwater pools and other non-chlorinated options. If you have your own pool, look into alternative ways to disinfect your pool. If there aren’t any other options, follow our next steps to reduce your chlorine exposure. Remember, you can certainly alert pool managers if the pool appears overchlorinated.
2 – TAKE CARE OF YOUR SKIN AND STAY HYDRATED
Your skin protects you, so you need to protect it. Keep your skin healthy by regularly exfoliating to get rid of dead skin. Follow a natural, whole food diet that avoids your food allergies, so the skin you have stays healthy. Keep your skin hydrated by using a good, clean moisturizer or lotion. It may sound crazy, but applying virgin olive oil or coconut oil topically is a fantastic way to fight off dry skin.
3 – TEACH YOUR KIDS GOOD POOL HABITS
Help your children understand that pool water isn’t for drinking and that they should keep their mouths closed when underwater. Schedule regular bathroom breaks so they remember that the pool isn’t their toilet. Not only is it gross, but it causes chlorine to react, producing extra chemicals. When kids have fun, they forget instructions, so regular reminders will help.
4 – SHOWER BEFORE AND AFTER THE POOL
Listen to the signs that say everyone must shower before entering the pool. It’s good advice. Rinsing off sweat, bacteria, and lotions reduces the chemical reactions that lead to HAAs and chlorine gases. Showering afterward also helps to reduce your absorption of chemicals.
5 – USE VITAMIN C
Vitamin C can neutralize chlorine. That’s why you see all these Vitamin C filters popping up. You can use this cheap fix by adding Vitamin C powder to your nontoxic sunscreen. You can also make your own spray to use after you get out of the pool. Vitamin C is excellent for your skin and hair, too!
Where else is chlorine found?
Pool water is one of many places with potentially dangerous levels of chlorine. The CDC lists other potential sources of chlorine:
- Drinking water
- Sewage sanitation
Keep bleach and pesticides away from children and check your water quality. If a better filtration system is needed, it’s worth the investment.
HAVE FUN AND REDUCE CHLORINE EXPOSURE
Is pool chlorine harmful? Yes. We only know some of the potential long-term effects of regular chlorine exposure. We can’t avoid all the toxins in our world, and we can’t stop living normal lives just to avoid them. We still need to get out there, have fun, and make memories. Take steps to reduce your chlorine exposure and minimize your toxic load while creating those memories. To learn more about how to support your body against the toxins in our world, contact a Wellness Way Clinic today!