Chlorine (Cl2) is somewhat of a necessary evil in swimming pools. While it keeps the water clean and sanitary, it can still have negative effects on humans if they’re exposed to too much for extended periods. Let’s take a look at some of the downsides of chlorine and how to protect yourself and your loved ones in the pool.
Because the chlorine is so diluted in pool water, it is generally considered safe. Most medical professionals argue that the wellness benefits of swimming and disinfectant qualities of chlorine far outweigh the potential risks. However, you still should know the facts.
- Breathing difficulties. Swimmers can experience irritation in their lungs by inhaling fumes from over-chlorinated pools. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that regular chlorine exposure had a noticeable effect on children with allergies or asthma.
- Eye and skin irritation. If you’ve spent any time in a pool, you’ve probably already noticed that chlorine can cause redness, itching, and irritation in the eyes and skin. You may also notice blurred vision and a burning in your nose and throat if you inhale overly-chlorinated water and chlorine fumes.
- This is usually caused by accidentally swallowing pool water, which can allow chlorine to irritate the stomach.
In some cases, exposure to chlorine has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and other severe health complications. However, those studies remain debated by health professionals and usually occur in people with extended exposure to improper chlorine levels, not what’s usually found in swimming pools.
How to Protect Yourself
If you do plan to enjoy the benefits of swimming, follow these steps to help reduce any lasting impact of chlorine.
- Shower before and after swimming. This is a good sanitary habit to get into. It’ll help wash off oils, lotions, and bodily fluids that can bond with chlorine and cause chloramine, which increase irritation. This is especially important if you swim regularly and have consistent exposure to chlorine.
- Consider wearing protective gear, like masks, snorkels, and wet suits. This protective gear can help prevent accidental water inhalation and reduce contact with skin and eyes, all of which can cause irritation.
- Get plenty of fresh air. Swim outside whenever possible, since the air helps reduce the impact of chlorine on your lungs. If you’re swimming in an indoor facility, take some time to step outside or open windows after you’re done swimming to help clear your lungs.
Since most issues come from overly-chlorinated or improperly balanced pool levels, the most important step is making sure you’re using the proper amount of chlorine. As a pool owner, it’s your responsibility to regularly check your pool’s water chemistry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pH 7.2–7.8 and a free chlorine concentration of at least 1 ppm in pools and at least 3 ppm in hot tubs and spas. The CDC recommends checking chlorine concentration and pH at least twice per day when the pool is in use.