As parents dedicated to healthy living, we try to do everything right to keep our kids safe from potential harm. Those who are new to this have made healthy changes for their kids including making sure they get outside and get enough sleep. We watch for toxins in their toothpaste, avoid food dyes, and we filter chemicals from their drinking water. Have you thought about your kids’ safety and the chlorine in the pool? Is pool chlorine harmful? We filter toxins like chlorine from their drinking water but then we go send them to swim in a big pool of chlorine and other chemicals without thinking of their chlorine exposure. Something isn’t right about that.
Many parents don’t think about the safety of chlorine in the pool because the chlorine is put there for their safety, right? The chlorine kills pathogens that might make them sick because unfortunately, water isn’t the only thing the pool. People come with all sorts of bacteria and children too! It is fishy they spent the whole afternoon in the pool without having to go to the bathroom. The chemicals are there to disinfect the water like bacteria and algae. That doesn’t change the fact that these chemicals aren’t good for our kids either.
How is Pool Chlorine Harmful?
We know these chemicals are toxic at high levels but what about consistent exposure over time of what is considered relatively safe chlorine exposure. When children play in chlorinated swimming pools the chlorine is absorbed through their skin and as they play, they ingest more of that chlorine water than they should.
When you think of water parks or hotel pools do you think of the chlorine smell or maybe even the burning it causes your eyes? This isn’t actually caused by the chlorine but the chemical reaction of chlorine when it interacts with organic compounds like sweat, urine or bacteria. This chemical reaction results in HAAs, or haloacetic acids. HAAs have potential to be harmful over long-term exposure and are classified as a human carcinogen. At high levels they are harmful to 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 and that levels were higher in children.
The gases released by chlorinated pools have been associated with increased risk of rectal cancer, bladder cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that children that regularly swim in chlorinated pools have increased rates of asthma and allergies. The chemicals irritate the airways and lungs.
We know the chemicals aren’t great for us because anyone who has been in an overchlorinated pool has felt their itchy skin or rashes. We know how it makes our hair brittle. These chemicals can add to our toxic load and have long term impacts. What can a parent do to reduce chlorine exposure?
How Can We Reduce Chlorine Exposure?
There are tradeoffs and potential risks with so many activities, including swimming. There are ways you can reduce chlorine exposure to minimize the potential health risks for you and your family. Consider your family’s health and how these risks impact it.
1 – Limit Use of Chlorinated Pools
This isn’t always possible but avoid chlorinated pools when you can. Find a good natural body of water and enjoy the benefits of the beach. There are also increasing saltwater pools and other options that aren’t chlorinated. If you have your own pool, look into alternative ways to disinfect your pool. When you don’t have other options, follow our next steps to reduce chlorine exposure and alert pool managers when 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 with exfoliation to get rid of dead skin and proper nutrition. Proper hydration also keeps your skin healthy and helps your skin do its very important job.
3 – Teach Your Kids Good Pool Habits
Help your children understand that pool water isn’t for drinking and they should keep their mouth closed when under water. Schedule regular bathroom breaks so they don’t forget that the pool isn’t their toilet. Not only is it gross but it causes chlorine to react leaving extra chemicals. When kids are having fun, they forget 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. By rinsing off the sweat, bacteria and lotions, you are reducing the chemical reactions that lead to HAAs and chlorine gases that cause concern. By showering afterwards, you can rinse extra chemicals off your body.
5 – Use Vitamin C
Vitamin C can neutralize the chlorine. That’s why you see all these Vitamin C filters popping up. You can take advantage of this cheap fix by adding Vitamin C powder to your nontoxic sunscreen or making your own spray with water to use after you get out of the pool. Vitamin C is great for your skin and hair too!
Have Fun and Reduce Chlorine Exposure
Is pool chlorine harmful? Yes, we don’t know all the long-term potential effects of regular chlorine exposure. We can’t fully avoid all the toxins in our world, and we can’t stop living to avoid them. We still need to get out there have fun and make memories. You can take steps to reduce your chlorine exposure and minimize your toxic load while making those memories.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn