Summer is here again and the kids are swimming in pools, but is it safe? Swimming in chlorinated pools is a health hazard, most especially for children. A 2010 study in the European Respiratory Journal reached startling conclusions that young children who spend more than a total of 20 hours in a chlorinated pool suffer permanent lung damage, increasing their lifelong risk of respiratory infections, allergies and asthma. The risk is even higher when swimming in a public pool where there are more people and more toxic chemicals from organic contamination.
The chlorine exposure appears to damage developing lung tissue in a way that makes children more sensitive not only to allergens but also to infectious agents. The study found that children who swim in indoor pools, where the chlorine concentration in the air is higher than outdoors, had even higher risk of permanent lung damage. Young children who had been in chlorinated outdoor pools for 20 or more hours are twice as likely to suffer from lung infections as children who had never been in a chlorinated pool. Children who had been to indoor pools were three-and-one-half times as likely to have a history of infection. Regular chlorine and so-called “salt” pools are health hazards to everyone, but especially to children.
In addition to the hazards of chlorine, a 2010 study in Environmental Science & Technology found that some uniquely toxic chemicals are formed when sweat, urine, hair, skin, cosmetics, sunscreens, and other organics react with chlorine. These chemicals do genetic damage that has been linked with asthma and bladder cancer.
As a practical matter, do not allow young children to swim in chlorinated pools, and most especially not in large public pools. If you own a pool, switch from a chlorine system to a non-chlorine system.