Kids are out of school and it’s the beginning of pool season. Everyone is excited to spend time in the pool and we look forward to pool parties. This time of year, parents are most concerned with the damaging rays from the sun and skin cancer. What they often overlook is the amount of damage that is actually in the pool itself. Almost all public pools and the majority of home pools function on a chlorine system. Chlorine is a strong disinfectant and serves the purpose of keeping the pool clear of infectious organisms. However, these abilities are also why it can have harmful effects on children and adults.
Chlorine gas is a known irritant to the lungs. Believe it or not, it was used in the early 20th century as a chemical weapon in France! Today, children are exposed to this toxin on almost a daily basis during the summer. Research in the past has implicated chlorine pool exposure to certain cancers and miscarriages. In 2009, a research study published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that swimming in chlorine pools worsened asthma, hay fever, and allergies, which has also been shown in other research previous to 2009. There are several reasons for this. Chlorine is a great disinfectant because it causes “oxidation”, a chemical reaction that can also cause damage to the human body. In nature, we see it as rust on metal. Belgian researchers have found that children who swim once a week in a chlorinated pool had the same amount of lung damage measured by oxidation as adult smokers! It is known that asthmatics already have more oxidation in their bodies than those without asthma, which is most likely why asthmatics are worse after swimming in a chlorine pool. Blond hair will often turn green from chlorine because the copper in algaecides is oxidized from chlorine and binds to hair. What happens when you leave a copper penny outside in the rain for a while? It turns green! That green oxidized copper is what binds to hair, turning it green. Chlorine also behaves like substances that cause allergic reactions, by fitting in between cells and aggravating the immune system. This is the reason behind chlorine’s effects on allergy symptoms.
What to do?
First, you can make big changes in the home by getting a non-chlorine or reduced chlorine system. Ozone, Ionization and salt-systems are available. In some cases the up front costs will be more, but the reward is a healthier family. Salt systems can have small amounts of chlorine in them, but let’s look at the numbers: A normal chlorine home pool will have 9 times the chlorine as a salt-system and a public pool can have about 20 times the chlorine! The second step is to protect your family from chlorine exposure. Since chlorine can cause oxidation, supplementing with anti-oxidants such as Vitamin E, C, Selenium and CoQ10 can counteract chlorine’s damaging properties. Substances like quercitin, a substance found in high amounts in onions, can decrease histamine release. Taking this on a regular basis during the summer can be helpful in preventing allergy symptoms caused by pool swimming. Asthmatics and those with allergies are going to be particularly sensitive, so they may need even higher amounts of antioxidants and quercitin than others.