Is Chlorine Bad For You?

Is Chlorine Bad For You?

Inside Chlorine’s Staying Power

From Aqua

Everyone recoginzes the “YMCA” smell from “Chlorine”.  Perhaps it is this caustic smell that gives people a natural aversion to Chlorine in swimming pools.  Or, perhaps, the myriad studies that supposedly prove that chlorine causes cancer, asthma, and a host of other diseases.  This post from Aqua Magazine examines whether Chlorine is the villan that it is made out to be, and whether it will eventually be eliminated.  

Here is an excerpt from the post:

As Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known health and nutrition expert and advocate of holistic medicine and nutrition, said in a 2009 online essay: “Chlorine used to disinfect swimming pools is widely recognized as a health hazard. New research suggests that children who swim frequently in chlorinated pools may have increased risks of developing allergies or asthma. Among adults, exposure to chlorine in swimming pools has been linked with other health problems including bladder and rectal cancer and, possibly, an increased risk for coronary heart disease.”

Advocates of chlorine use are quick to counter that those types of hyperbolic statements are misleading — that swimming in properly chlorinated pools actually lowers the risk of illness. Jerry Wallace, president of Swim Chem, a service firm based in Sacramento, Calif., is very much a traditionalist when it comes to chemical treatment. The company, founded by his father, John Wallace, has been relying on chlorine use for 46 years, a practice Jerry plans on maintaining.

“We’ve always used chlorine,” he says. “We started out using gas chlorine, but that was regulated to the point that the cost of compliance became too much. So we switched to liquid chlorine and have been just as successful. It’s effective for us because of our thought process of how we want to treat pools. The problem with a lot of pools isn’t chlorine, but inadequate overall treatment. Proper water balance, filtration, cleaning, circulation, shocking, backwashing, all of those things together are what determines whether or not you have quality water.

“If you apply the fundamentals of proper maintenance,” he adds, “you won’t have problems associated with disinfection byproducts.”

One of the lingering misconceptions about chlorine, Rigsby says, is the smell, even though that concern is easily addressed: “It’s counterintuitive,” she says. “People think they’re smelling too much chlorine when in fact the smell comes from the byproducts because there’s not enough oxidation. Well-maintained pools don’t typically have problems with smell.”

Be it concerns over smell, possible carcinogenic effects of some byproducts or the question of whether or not chlorine turns hair green, Wallace is skeptical of chlorine critics: “You always want to consider science and new technologies,” he says. “At this point, we do know for sure that chlorine has been used in pools and public water treatment for a hundred years, and it’s always worked and worked well,” he says. “Now people are coming up with causes for problems that we’d never even considered before, but oftentimes the data isn’t that convincing.

“Fortunately,” he adds, “we don’t hear it much from our customers even though many of them are very well informed these days. Most are very happy with the way we’re maintaining their pools with chlorine.”

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