Clean Pools Can Still Pose Health Hazards
| 04 Jun 2016
| Vidya Shankar Tiwari, Editor, NOP

THURSDAY, June 2, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Nothing seems better on a hot day than hopping into a cool swimming pool.

But, new research might prompt you to shower first and make sure your kids don't pee in the water.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina report that the disinfectants used to keep pools clean can create dangerous disinfection byproducts (DBPs) when combined with sweat, personal care products and urine.

Some of these byproducts have caused genetic damage to cells in laboratory tests, while other reports have found higher rates of bladder cancer and respiratory issues in people who are around pools regularly, the researchers said.

And though the study findings held true for public pools, private pools and hot tubs, the researchers flagged indoor pools and hot tubs as a top concern, too.

"I never had my kids on a swim team in an indoor pool, swimming every day. I would make that same choice today knowing what I know," said study co-author Susan Richardson, who's with the university's department of chemistry and biochemistry.

"The air you're breathing is one of the disinfection byproducts -- it's that chlorine smell, but not actually chlorine. Instead, it's a DBP, mainly trichloramine, the combination of urine and chlorine. It goes from the water to the air, easily. That chemical is a known respiratory irritant," Richardson said.

Such irritants may raise the risk of colds and asthma complications, Richardson said. "I wouldn't advise people to stay away from pools, but everything in moderation," she added.

Richardson is less concerned about outdoor pools and hot tubs, because there is more ventilation in the open air. However, when those pools and hot tubs are used intensely, the DBP levels are worse, according to the study.

Richardson and her colleagues tested water samples from public and private pools and hot tubs, after both normal and intense use.

They found more than 100 DBPs -- some of which are known to be mutagenic, or able to cause cell damage and DNA mutation.

On average, the researchers found tap water to be cleaner than disinfected pool water samples, which were twice as mutagenic. And, hot tub samples were four times as mutagenic, Richardson said, "because the warmer temperatures increase the reaction rate, forming these disinfection byproducts faster."

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