Swimming is the second most popular form of exercise in America.
Our partiality to swimming can be easily observed in the presence of community pools in the summer, as well as the influence of pools on residential areas, where they are frequent fillers in backyards and serve as a space for congregation in apartment complexes.
But all fun and fitness aside, continued contact with the water found in artificial pools, which use a cocktail of toxic chemicals to keep well maintained, poses multiple health risks.
Probably the most known chemical used in pool maintenance is chlorine. Chlorine is added to kill bacteria, however, it is also a respiratory irritant and can be fatal at high rates of exposure.
Even at low exposure rates, continued contact with chlorine has been shown to damage the lung along with other soft tissue, including the eyes and mucus membranes. This increases the chance of developing asthma, especially in adolescents. Over-exposure to chlorine can cause skin irritation, as well as nausea and vomiting.
In pools, chlorine can also combine with biological fluids, like sweat or urine, to create chloramines. Contact with chloramines can result in nasal irritation, stinging eyes, and difficulties breathing. It’s a wonder any of us would want to dunk our heads into water containing such chemicals, with eyes open nonetheless.
Another common chemical used in artificial pools is bromine, which may sound familiar if you’ve ever heard of brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a patented flame retardant used in certain fruit flavored beverages. Too much bromine exposure has lead to nerve disorders, skin lesions, and memory loss.
In community pools, especially those indoors, there is an increased risk of air pollution. This is due to the concentration of chemicals in poorly ventilated areas. This, too, can lead to the development of asthma and other breathing problems.
To prevent over exposure to chlorine and other toxins, it is best to simply avoid them, opting to swim in natural pools instead, or those treated with non-toxic cleaning agents. If you continue to swim in public pools, be alert for pungent odors as this may be an indication of poor ventilation.
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