Chlorine is a necessary evil; it is a needed chemical to keep swimming pools ‘clean.’ But at what costs?
It is basically unavoidable this time of year, and with months of heat left, the pools will still beckon us.
Summer is upon us, and I am seeing more and more families come in for adjustments in their swim gear, either to or home from the pool. I have also had several patients complain of more frequent headaches, body aches, fatigue or a summer cough that they can’t shake. I immediately assume it’s dehydration and recommend increase water intake, more sleep, and less time in the sun. But then I started thinking a bit more. The lingering smell of chlorine on my own child, and within my office sent me researching. The results: Chlorine could be doing more damage than we ever realized.
We know that chlorine is toxic. It is a poison. I preach about drinking and cooking with filtered water, and no one I know would ever purposely drink chlorinated water. But yet, we swim in it without a second thought. What is a parent to do?
Obviously, we cannot ensure that all pools we enter are saltwater pools, although that would be ideal. We also cannot avoid the pool altogether. Children are drawn to water, and it is a hot summer out there. But that chlorine smell that seems to overwhelm the nose and sting the eyes, it is linked to quite a few scary things:
- Breathing Problems
- Skin Rashes
- Eye Irritation
- Nausea/Upset Stomach
- Sinus Problems
- Dry Skin/Hair
- Cancer* (rectal and bladder cancers): The heightened risk is linked to exposure to a contaminant found in chlorinated water called Trihalomethanes (THMs) which forms when chlorine reacts with organic material. THMs are a widely recognized carcinogen.
*After 40 minutes of swimming, swimmers show an increase in markers of DNA damage that can lead to cancer.
Sunscreen, sweat, and urine, along with other fluids mix with the chlorine to cause over 100 different types of chemical byproducts (known as chloramines), many of which are extremely toxic. Chlorine’s chemical byproducts can get into the body through the skin. Exposure also comes from breathing air at the surface of the water, where chemicals become volatile. While swimming, individuals breathe faster and harder ending up with even more exposure to the chemicals and toxins.
Chloramines can be breathed from outside of the water too, especially at an indoor swimming pool.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recognize the dangers that come from chlorine and chloramine exposure. It has been found that children with chronic health issues, such as asthma, autism, adhd, and other daily struggles, tend to feel the effects of the chloramines faster and more intense than those without these struggles, but absolutely anyone can be affected.
BUT IT IS SUMMER! IT IS HOT! THE KIDS NEED TO SWIM!
I hear you loud and clear. I am not saying to avoid the pool. There are ways to help neutralize the effects of chlorine on the body and detox from exposure:
- Vitamin C Powder/Tabs: Vitamin C is proven to neutralize and undo the damage of chlorine and chloramine exposure. Mixing a high quality powder version of the vitamin into a glass of water to drink will help the body detox from the inside out, while adding the powder to a spray bottle of water and applying to the skin immediately after swimming neutralizes the toxins and encourages the body to detox them quickly.
- Vitamin C Powder is Sunscreen: While sunscreen will not protect from chlorine, it can act as a slight barrier. With Vitamin C mixed into it, sunscreen can act as a protectant. This can be an important step if swimming is happening often!
- Epsom Salt Bath: Filling a bath tub with warm water and adding Epsom salts help to relax the muscles and pull toxins from the body. Sitting in the water for 15-30 minutes is all the body needs to feel like itself again.
- Take a Supplement: Take 1 capsule of a high-quality Taurine (I recommend Thorne brand) the morning before swimming. As an amino acid, taurine helps to bind and detoxify chlorine. Taurine should remain in your system for 48 hours.
Enjoy your summer!