Pool health: are chlorine and other pool chemicals safe? As the summer approaches, people across the UK are getting ready to start swimming again, either in public pools or (if they are really lucky) in their own private pool. However, as more of us are becoming conscious of the health and safety aspects surrounding chemicals in our day-to-day lives, a large number of the population are starting to question how safe it is to be dipping into water filled with chlorine. After all, chlorine is bad for you – right? Ultimately chlorine is used in swimming pools to kill bacteria and keep the water safe for you to swim in. However, that doesn’t mean that it is exclusively good. Chlorine can have a number of negative effects on different parts of your body. Here we take a look at the health issues associated with chlorine and other pool chemicals to establish how safe they really are. What does chlorine do to your eyes? We have all been in the situation where we have left a swimming pool and felt a burning sensation in our eyes and discovered that they have gone very red. And yes, you would be right to blame chlorine for this issue. As well as sanitising the water in the swimming pool, chlorine is still a potent chemical and it can irritate your eyes. Chlorine makes your potentially vulnerable to bacteria by stripping away the tear film that protects the cornea. This can then make it possible for you to contract a number of different eye issues including irritated eyes, conjunctivitis, or even an eye infection. Ultimately, of course, swimming in dirty water would actually make you more vulnerable to eye conditions, so in terms of eye health, chlorine is a necessary evil. Does chlorine damage your skin? Many people report that swimming in chlorinated water has a negative effect on their skin. While chlorine kills the bad bacteria that can cause illnesses, it also indiscriminately kills what medical professionals would refer to as ‘good’ bacteria which our skin relies on. This is why swimming on a regular basis can lead to issues with your skin. It has been suggested that chlorine destroys not only friendly bacteria but also vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids in the skin , and this can result in you suffering from acne or other skin problems. Additionally, chlorine dries out the skin which can lead to depleted proteins and even premature ageing. In general, however, if you are not swimming in chlorinated water on an extremely regular basis then the effects of the chemicals on your skin should be relative self-limiting. Can pool chemicals cause cancer? You might be surprised to learn that swimming pool chemicals have been associated with cancer for a number of years. For example, a study as far back as 2010 linked swimming in indoor pools with DNA damage that could cause cancer . The specific issue here was through the inhalation of the chemicals in the indoor environment, which could cause a range of respiratory issues. However, the study did not suggest that swimming should be avoided, but rather than the concentrations of chemicals used should be reduced. It should be noted that other studies have linked swimming in chlorinated water to malignant melanoma – a form of skin cancer. Of course, it should be noted here that in moderation swimming in chlorinated water is unlikely to have a major effect on your skin, and the development of cancer is still poorly understood so it not a good idea to start changing your lifestyle in light of a possible link between chlorine and cancer. How to minimise risks As we have seen, chlorinated water is mildly associated with a number of health issues and concerns, although swimming to keep fit and as a hobby should not be discouraged because of this. However, there are some things that you can do to minimise the risk of health issues arising from chlorine. • If you are considering having your own pool installed, consider opting for a natural pool – one that does not use chlorine or chemicals for cleaning • If you are managing the chemicals on your own pool, get a good understanding of how to create hygienic water conditions safely • Any time that you swim in chlorinated water shower immediately afterwards About the Author: Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and English Literature graduate. Annie likes to share her experiences and knowledge through her blog posts and has written for various online and print publications. When she’s not writing Annie likes cooking healthy new recipes and relaxing with a good book'. Twitter: Annie Button