For many people—kids and adults alike—the smell of a chlorinated pool triggers sensations of joy. It means that soon they’ll be one with the water, swimming, splashing, and generally having a blast. But those telltale fumes could potentially trigger a whole lot more, like asthma.
Here’s what you can do to protect your health and get your swim on at the same time:
Limit swimming in indoor chlorine pools with little to no ventilation, especially if it’s your only option. A 2006 Belgian study showed that use of indoor chlorine pools (especially by children younger than 7) promotes the development of childhood asthma. Kids who swam most frequently had proteins associated with increased risk of asthma at levels similar to those found in regular smokers!
Select pools with strict rules about bathing before swimming (and do your part to keep them clean). When chlorinated water comes into contact with hair, body products, sweat, saliva, or urine (regular ingredients at the public pool) it creates certain volatile disinfection byproducts like chloroform (which is potentially carcinogenic and over time causes liver and kidney damage) and bromodichloromethane (which has also been linked to cancer as well as liver and kidney damage in animal studies).
If you have your own pool, consider a system that doesn’t use (or uses less) chlorine.
When all else fails, head to the beach!
Some tips for kiddie pools
If you have kids in your life and are considering investing in a plastic wading pool, you might have questions about the safety of the plastics used to make them. From BPA to phthalates, there’s no end to the unsettling headlines featuring toxic plastics these days. Here are some tips:
Look for those made from hard plastic, specifically types #2 or #4. Take a pass on any pool model made from #3 plastic—the recycling symbol for PVC. If you can’t locate an arrow on the bottom of the pool, keep in mind that inflatable kiddie pools are virtually always made from PVC and should be avoided.
If your only option is a PVC plastic kiddie pool model, you can greatly reduce phthalate exposure by frequently changing the water and preventing the pool from overheating in the sun. The benefits that come from having a wading spot are worth the effort. There’s plenty of learning and development that occurs when children engage in water play, not to mention the exercise and fresh air they get, and of course, the ability to cool off on a hot day.
Regardless of where you swim, be sure to practice smart sunscreening! Some ideas: