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Dangers of Chlorine in USA Pools

By Karen Myers
Copyright © 2006 All Rights Reserved

Swimming Pool safety may take on a new meaning for most after reading this brief article regarding the dangers lurking in USA pools. I'm referring to the dangers of chlorine, a substance often used to treat pool waters in the USA.

About Chlorine

Think about this a moment: chlorine provides the "C" in deadly PCB, and it is the source of the "chloro" in ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. And chlorine is a key ingredient in many of the world's nastiest poisons, including Agent Orange and DDT.

And further quoted from the MetroActive website: "Dioxin, a byproduct of the industrial use of chlorine, is considered by many scientists to be the deadliest chemical ever made. It has been linked to cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, reduced sperm counts and learning disabilities. It finds its way into the world when compounds which contain chlorine are burned or heated."

In addition to water disinfectants and pharmaceuticals, chlorine is a critical element to 25 percent of all medical plastics, 70 percent of all disposable medical applications, and 95 percent of crop protection chemicals; it also plays a significant role in the production of soaps and detergents, aluminum, and pulp and paper.

And of course, chlorine is also used in USA water treatment ...and in USA Pools...

Dangers of Chlorine in Pools and
Chlorinated Water Dangers

HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., has this to say regarding the health hazards of chlorinated water in USA pools and water systems:

"As someone who spent a TON of time in chlorinated water (and handling chlorine levels), there is NO question that swimming in American pools is far worse than showering...the chlorine levels are much worse in the pool. That's haunted me for years.

"Even worse, however, would be a hot tub...they are positively loaded with chlorine.

"I say 'American' pools, as in Europe they refuse to use chlorine or bromine, preferring the more expensive process of ozonation. My feeling is the US can't afford to have that bit of news get out, as people will then start to question their municipal (chlorinated) water supplies.

"So, yes there's scalp absorption (plus inhalation, don't forget) in a shower. And never, ever, get in a hot tub unless it's ozone treated (which you won't find in the US, far as I know)."

A book titled "Coronaries/Cholesterol/Chlorine" by Dr. Joseph Price, explains how chlorine intake contributes to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). And if you want "More evidence of pool chlorine dangers," check out this December 10/2004 article in Brussels Expatic Magazine.

The dangers of chlorine are not new...

Laboratory tests with whole effluent samples demonstrated that chlorinated wastewater effluents from municipal wastewater treatment plants (MWTPs) in Nova Scotia and Ontario were acutely lethal to fish and invertebrate species, particularly in effluents where TRC levels exceeded 0.1 mg/L (OMOE, 1991b; Rutherford, 1992). Caged rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) experienced 40% mortality 100 meters downstream from an MWTP located on the Sheep River, Alberta. No mortality occurred when fish were exposed to whole effluents that had not been chlorinated.

Regarding the dangers of chlorine in USA pools, Dr. Greene's website has this to say:

"The layer of chlorine gases hovering just above the water has the potential to damage the lungs and cause asthma, if the levels are high enough. The chlorine that stings the eyes can also 'sting' the sensitive tissue of the lungs. At some pools the chlorine smell is oppressive. The risks are highest in indoor pools, and the lower the ceiling, the higher the risk.

"In looking at 1,881 children, the researchers found a consistent direct correlation between the total cumulative time a child had spent splashing in an indoor pool and the risk that the child developed asthma. They also found that blood levels of lung proteins rose immediately after swimming; the protective membranes in the lungs had become temporarily open passages.

"This doesn’t make me want to limit swimming – far from it! -- but it does make me want to urge clean, fresh air. This means better ventilation at swimming pools, and exploring gentler methods to prevent infection such as better swimmer hygiene, better water circulation, and non-chlorinated disinfectants."

Without a doubt, disinfection of drinking water supplies with chlorine has been a lifesaver for many people around the world. But in high concentrations and/or under certain conditions, it can also pose a danger to our health. Consider Dr. Greene's advice when taking the kids to the pool on those hot summer days ahead.

Expatic Magazine - More evidence of pool chlorine dangers
MetroActive News and Issues - Common Killer
EurekAlert - Experts debate benefits, dangers of chlorine in C&EN point-counterpoint
Health Canada - Chlorinated Wastewater Effluents - PLS1 - The Two Faces of Swimming Pool Chlorine