Letters: Is your pool poisoning you? Read this before you take a dip

Is your pool poisoning you? Read this before you take a dip

“I have always been concerned about the chlorine in swimming pools, especially indoor ones with little ventilation. As soon as you enter the pool area, the chlorine smell is overpowering. After a few minutes, of course, you no longer notice it-but it is still there! Am I overly concerned?”

-C.D., Bogata, Columbia

A. Whether you’re in Bogata, Boston, or Bombay, the problem is always the same everywhere-intense chlorination of the pool water. Even worse is the jacuzzi because of the high temperature of the water.

You have every reason to be concerned. But not about what you might think. People worry mostly about skin absorption, but that is a minor issue-the pulmonary system is where the action is.

The mucous membranes of the bronchial tree and the lung tissue itself are ready absorbers of all sorts of chemicals.

A recent study done in England illustrates the difference between tap water and pool water. Levels of chloroform (one of the offending breakdown products of chlorine) were tested in eight indoor swimming pools. On average, the level was 121 micrograms per liter in the pools. The local tap water contained only 3.5 micrograms per liter. Chloroform is called a “disinfection byproduct” which is formed when chlorine reacts with organic substances like human skin, feces, residues from body care products (almond this, and apricot that), and who knows what else? Of course there is a difference between drinking water and swimming in water. But with the inhalation factor mentioned above, one wonders which is worse?

So what is to be done about it? Swimming pool water should be treated with hydrogen peroxide or ultraviolet light. Contact your pool service companies to see if they carry the UV technology. They may also be able to help you determine how much peroxide to use to replace the chlorine in your pool.

And you don’t need to buy expensive Perrier for a beverage. But you should invest in a good filter to remove all the junk that man -and nature-have put in your water. (I’m not talking Brita here you need something stronger.)

Try the Doulton Water Filter Plus,(tm) available for $289 (plus S&H). Call (800)851-7100 and ask for order code ID22.


Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2002; 44(4)