July 24, 2007
Summer is identified with mangoes; visit to granny’s house and swimming. Many of us love to go for a swim in the natural water body – be it a lake or a river. But for many more of us who prefer to swim within the confinement of four walls, we go for the swimming pools. All you need is a sun screen lotion, bathing suit and you are ready to plunge into the pool to escape the fury of the Sun God.
But how many of us realize the hazards of the same swimming pools that provide us an escape from the blazing heat? The chlorine is used in high quantities to keep the pool clean. But the same chlorine, when excessively added can be perilous for the swimmers.
Chlorinated indoor swimming pools can cause asthma, according to research from several sources. These findings may explain why swimmers using indoor pools are more prone to asthma than athletes in other sports. Infants who are taught swimming in indoor pools have a risk of developing asthma later in life for the same reason. Studies conducted have revealed that poor air quality around the pools also results in asthma.
The problem isn't the chlorine, but what chlorine turns into when combined with organics. The organics are contributed by bathers in the pool in the form of sweat, dander, urine and other organics. The chlorine reacts with the organics and produces nitrogen trichloride, aldehydes, halogenated hydrocarbons, chloroform, trihalomethanes and chloramines. If these sound like dangerous chemicals, they are. During the Olympic Games held in Australia, it was reported that more than one-quarter of the American swimmers’ team suffered from some degree of asthma.
At a research conducted, out of 341 schoolchildren studied, 43 children who had been enrolled in a swimming programme as infants were about three times more likely to have asthma or suffer recurrent bouts of bronchitis as compared to the rest of the children. It was found that in general, children who had been in the pool as babies were more likely to show signs of damage to the respiratory tract lining. This damage, in turn, seemed to make them more susceptible to asthma and repeated bouts of bronchitis. The chlorine by-products present in and around the pools irritate infants' developing airways, causing changes that make them more susceptible to lung disease later in childhood. The chlorine by-products also lowered the air quality around pools, particularly indoor ones.
However, these findings do not suggest that parents should keep babies and toddlers away from swimming lessons. Parents who take their young children for swimming lessons should be alert for signs of over-chlorination. If a strong chlorine smell is detected in and around the swimming pool and the swimmers complain of eye and upper respiratory tract irritation, it indicates the presence of high levels of chlorination products in air and water. However, further research is needed to decide whether or not outdoor and residential pools present a definite risk to young children's respiratory health.
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