The Dangers of Chlorinated Pools and How To Protect Yourself

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist June 21, 2012

By Sandrine Love, of Nourishing Our Children and Nourishing Ourselves

Another topic to explore as we head into the summer season is chlorinated pools.

Chlorine is popular because it handles the three main jobs in keeping a swimming pool clean: It sanitizes (kills bacteria and germs), oxidizes (controls organic debris from perspiration and body oils), and deters algae. The chemical is unpopular, however, because it has a strong odor, reddens eyes, causes allergic reactions in some swimmers, and is a known carcinogen – meaning it has been linked to cancer!
Chlorine absorbs into your skin. Too much exposure to chlorine has been linked to major health problems including reproductive disorders and even birth defects.  It can cause your skin and hair to dry out and over time too much exposure can even cause wrinkles.

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered why Olympic swimmers seem to have so many wrinkles at such young ages and most of the men start losing their hair so quickly?   Could it in fact be caused by overexposure to chlorine for so many years and so many hours every day?  Perhaps so.

When chlorinated pools are indoors, toxic gases such as nitrogen trichloride are released, which can be very dangerous. When we breathe in this gas it can cause severe damage to the lining of the lungs which could lead to respiratory problems or asthma. This toxic gas can be harmful at any age yet it poses the most risk to elderly people and small children.

So while chlorine used to disinfect swimming pools is widely recognized as a health hazard, not everyone has access to the ocean or a lake, or pools treated with ozone, ionizers, bromine, silver-cooper, or other alternatives which can frequently be much more expensive.

If you or your family members do choose to swim in chlorinated pools, some recommendations I’ve read are to:

1. Swim in an outdoor chlorinated pool. It is much safer due to the fact that the majority of the toxic gases are eliminated in the air.
2. Swim in chlorinated pools on occasion only.
3. Shower immediately before and after with a natural soap.
4. Drink plenty of non-chlorinated, filtered water beforehand so that you are well hydrated.
5. Consider wearing a mask and snorkel to shield your eyes – and even a wetsuit, if you are willing to go that far!
6. Get fresh air afterward so you don’t continue to inhale the fumes, and can clear your lungs.

Why shower immediately before swimming in a chlorinated pool?

Julie Deardorff explains in her article published in the Chicago Tribute, “Another important reason to shower is that our bodies generally contain residue from consumer products, including perfume, make-up, body lotion, shampoo and sunscreen.

When the chemicals used to disinfect the pool mix with organic matter (sweat, hair, urine) or nitrogen-rich substances (commonly found in consumer products) it can create a more toxic agent, said Michael Plewa, a professor of genetics at the University of Illinois whose new research has linked pool chemicals to health problems, including asthma and bladder cancer.”

Red, burning, itchy eyes and skin?

What I’ve read is that the presence of chloramines can cause reactions such as red, burning, irritated eyes: Chloramines form when chlorine reacts with ammonia. Ammonia enters the pool through sweat and urine. It is important to teach children not to urinate in pool water [even though it is chlorinated].

Also, showering before swimming can remove excess sweat that interacts with chlorine. My understanding is that if the sweat is on your skin, and hasn’t been rinsed off first in the shower, the chlorine will interact with the sweat on your skin as you enter the pool, and may result in some folks getting itchy skin.

Some additional articles on this topic

The Dangers of Chlorine
Chlorinated Swimming Pools Can Cause Asthma In Swimmers
Chlorinated Pools May Increase Cancer Risk
The Hidden Danger of Swimming Pools
Discover How To Protect Yourself from Chlorine Found in Swimming Pools
Swimming Pool Alternatives to ChlorineSo, what do you think – do the benefits and joy of swimming and playing in a pool out weigh the risks of chlorine?

About The Author

Sandrine Hahn previously worked as a family therapist, art therapist, teacher, and as an educational therapist in private practice before she established Nourishing Our Children in 2005. Convinced that the children she worked with were well-fed but malnourished, Sandrine closed her private practice to devote herself to the cause of educating and inspiring parents to return to the whole, natural foods that have produced generation after generation of healthy children.

She founded the San Francisco Chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2004 and served as the volunteer chapter leader for more than a year. She has also taught Nourishing Traditions and Moroccan cooking classes.  Beyond her own visual communication business, she currently serves our cause as the executive and creative director. Sandrine creates educational materials that individuals use for their own self education and/or to present to an audience.  In 2012, she established Nourishing Ourselves as an extension of her original educational initiative. Sandrine received an activist award from the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2006 for her leadership role.


Click here to learn more about how to nourish rather than merely feed your family

 

Comments (148)

  1. Would love to go to the pool with you guys and see the looks you get from others when you perform these rituals before swimming.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: effect of chlorinated pools on skin | Deakin SciCom 2014

  3. Brigitta Jansen May 29, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Also, take iodine! Chlorine (and fluoride and bromide) displaces iodine in the thyroid and tissues like breast and ovaries. Taking extra iodine will push these out and help detox them.
    Two drops of 5% Lugol’s solution per day.

    Reply
  4. Gloria Cotton via Facebook May 29, 2014 at 12:13 am

    What about not putting your kids future health at risk? Why is this not obvious!

    For all the lucky folks who swam in chlorine (a carcinogen) as kids and now say they have perfect, vibrant health – hooray for you! But, the majority of the population are sick adults – look around, perhaps all those years of swimming in poison DID have an affect. xoxo

    Reply
  5. Kimberly Bears via Facebook May 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    My son always felt sick after swimming in chlorine, until we learned he should shower beforehand. Besides clearing away sweat, I think it also saturates the skin with less-chlorinated water, so he doesn’t absorb as much in the pool.

    Reply
  6. Lisa Nero via Facebook May 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Go swim in lakes, rivers and oceans if you need to avoid chlorine. That’s a safe alternative, not wrought with any dangers.

    Reply
  7. Karon Hollandsworth Northington via Facebook May 28, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Also, you need to get wet BEFORE entering the pool because your skin and hair act like a sponge soaking up that chlorine

    Reply
  8. While I have never has a bad reaction to swimming in a chlorinated pool, my daughter is almost instantly covered with a red itchy rash when she gets out of the pool. Showering with anti chlorine products seems to lessen the degree of severity of the reaction but does not eliminate it entirely.

    Reply
  9. Ted Byrnes via Facebook May 27, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I’ve been swimming in chlorinated pools for 45 years and I’ve cheated death the entire time? Wow, talk about luck!

    Reply
  10. Alison Hamel Herndon via Facebook May 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    saltwater pools are still chlorine. The salt creates a reaction that in turn becomes chlorine. You can get systems that are like bottled water.

    Reply
  11. Monica McKnight via Facebook May 27, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    We are trying to figure out an alternative to chlorine in our pool. Have any of you tried any of these options and what do you think about them?

    Reply
  12. Kaylin VanderHart Brinckley via Facebook May 27, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    I always paint some iodine on my kids’ skin after swimming since chlorine displaced iodine in the body and increases deficiency.

    Reply
  13. Elizabeth Mason Moses via Facebook May 27, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    What about using vitamin C topically immediately after swimming? I understand it neutralizes the chlorine still on the skin after swimming.

    Reply
  14. Pingback: Junebug » Blog Archive » Under the Deep Blue…Swimming Pool?

    • I’m finding that there is a lot of uninformed and unqualified opinion on the internet. A friend just told me that you have to shower after the pool because you have to get the Cl out of your body. I can understand if your hair is still wet there’s still Cl there. But if you’ve dried off, all the Cl on your skin would already be absorbed into the skin and a shower would not remove it.

      Reply
  15. Very interesting this article…. I have been taking my 8 year old to my local YMCA and sometimes I am concerned because she wants to stay in swimming pool almost 2 hours. I was wondering how long it is recommendable to stay in the pool (indoors),,, To be honest, I am also concerned about the chlorine effect but she loves swimming. I got also al inflatable swimming that I prefer instead of the chlorinated one. Please, advise me what is the maximum time to stay in a pool.

    Reply
  16. Hi guys,

    I’m so glad this article was posted! I had noticed that after swimming in indoor pools for exercise my skin was getting worse and so were my allergies and it was really frustrating.

    I didn’t notice as much with my pool at home, but still didn’t want to use chlorine anymore. I switched to Clear Choice products and my skin and body feels a lot better after leaving the pool at home and my hair doesn’t smell!! Thought I would share because it worked for me, and might work for you too!
    http://www.clearchoiceaustralia.com.au/

    Reply
  17. Joanna Hunt Nunez via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you for this! My son literally had a reaction to the pool for the first time today.

    Reply
  18. Amanda Tr via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I have found that drinking a lot of water and doing an activity like running that causes you to sweat a lot after swimming helps to get rid of the chlorine that you’ve absorbed through your skin. Although showering does help, I’m sure you’ll notice after a swim that you’ll still smell the chlorine when you turn on the shower the next day. Sweating it out ASAP after a swim is the truly the best way I’ve found to get it out of your body.

    Reply
  19. Sally Green Alford via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Maybe coating your kids in a thin layer of coconut or olive oil (similar to a sunscreen application) would help reduce the chlorine absorption.

    Reply
  20. Julie, in my experience many pools in the US have a sign that says you must shower before you get in, but almost no pool enforces this rule. I’m not sure if I’ve ever known anyone who really consistently follows this pseudo-rule or tradition or whatever it is. I’ve personally always thought it was an incredibly odd rule. And now that I’ve learned about how dangerous our efforts towards sterilizing our environment are I’m all the more convinced that it is just an extreme version of the mental health disorder furthering our societies germ phobia.

    Reply
    • Hi Sheril. I, for one, always shower before I get in. One benefit for this showering rule (law where I live in upstate NY) is that it minimizes the amount of chemicals that are required to maintain the proper pH level in the pool (7.4 to 7.6). Allowing the pH to go too far one way will allow all kinds of bad things to thrive in that water. Your stank, oil and sweat all contribute to this pH balancing act. Teaching kids to not piss in the pool (to the point where they actually don’t, which requires parents paying attention and following up) will help this. Every time a little one drops a baby ruth in the pool, we (the lifeguards, hi there) have to (literally have to) clear the pool and shock treat it…. meaning we dump a crap load of chlorine (or something else, if using bromine in place of chlorine) to assure that any bugs in the poop are killed off. 45-60 minutes later, everyone can go back in. If three little ones crap 3 times in a day, that’s bleach blonde hair for everyone. I really like the 2 pool system, where little ones are not allowed in the big pool. To make things worse, any of us that are competitive swimmers (hi there) who need one of these pools to swim a workout in are going to sweat way more than we need to, because the pools are usually way too hot for this type of thing. More sweat, more chemicals. Again, 2 pool system would help as the little ones, and the old folks who do not intend on moving enough to stay warm (???) can be in the little warm pool. The pools that you guys are visiting are probably public pools where people come in, not really giving two craps about what they leave behind because they don’t have to deal with it (or are ignorant of these things), and are, here it comes, poorly run by people who have absolutely no business running that which they do not understand. As for the Chlorine or bromine what ever is in use there, I carry a small spray bottle with water and some powdered acsorbic acid (Vit C) and when I take my post swim shower, I soak myself with that, rub it in, wash as normal and no pool smell, no itchies. Since it is nothing more than Vitamin C, I can literally spray this stuff in my mouth if I want.

      Reply
  21. I still can not figure out, why a country like Canada, can not do something BETTER with the pools and chlorine. Many many years ago- Hungary (and communist back than too!) used laser disinfection method, completely bypassing the chlorine issue. How could a small country like Hungary do that long time ago, and here it is a health issue???? Looks like the chemical companies are really strong in North America!

    Reply
  22. Weldon Williford via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I believe with enough vitamin C and and a daily iodine source such as kelp you are probably okay with moderate exposure. I wouldn’t stay in it every day however.

    Reply
  23. Gina Malewicz via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I even heard of spraying yourself down with an epsom salt and water spray after swimming. Not sure if that works.

    Reply
  24. Katie Edmunds Monk via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

    We avoid chlorinated pools pretty much completely. My son and I are both very sensitive to it and end up feeling sick, itchy, and miserable after being in chlorine. This just further confirms we will swim in fresh water or salt pools when we can.

    Reply
  25. Kimberly Bears via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 10:31 am

    This is so true. My oldest son (12yo) hates to go to swimming pools, because he feels sick afterwards. The suggestions given in this article are things we have tried before, and they do help. Also I think the before-swim shower helps to saturate the body with water, so less chlorine is absorbed. We have a chlorine filter on our shower at home, which is good for rinsing off afterwards.

    Reply
  26. It’s difficult for me to read this, because my daughter likes babyswimming very much (she’s 11 months old). But ofcourse, the swimmingpool is indoor and chlorinated. No options to go outdoors or go to a non-chlorine pool. I can’t teach her not to pee in the water, she’s too young. I put coconutoil on her body before swimming, and we take a shower before and after. Sometimes she swallows water, hard to avoid. Swimming is so relaxing for us both, but after reading this I’m not sure about it anymore. I live in a water country, and think it’s important for her to get familiar with water at a young age. Do you have more advice for me? Thank you very much.

    Reply
  27. Jodie Barendsen via Facebook July 4, 2013 at 10:17 am

    This us quite concerning, even more so given our drinking water ( therefore bath water also) is full of chlorine too :/

    Reply
  28. scary article. I wanted to point out that the author appears to be unfamiliar with the functioning of a wet-suit, likely confusing it with a dry-suit.

    Reply
  29. This scare mongering is coming from the most obese country in the world? The health and fitness benefits of a proper swimming session far outweigh the use of chlorine. Swimming is one of the best cardiovascular and aerobic activities. Millions of people have gone swimming over decades without a problem. You can now find pools that are sanitized by using ultraviolet light in the plumbing and don’t rely on chemicals.

    Reply
  30. I appreciate this post and all the comments. I feel like an indoor pool is my best choice right now – I’m in Seattle and our summers are short and not very hot. I’d like to take my 4yo to a pool every other week for a couple months to acclimate him to more water than a bathtub. He’s a cautious, sometimes fearful kid and the short outdoor season isnt long enough. I’m glad for the ideas about vit c.

    Reply
  31. www.unikoccasions.com February 24, 2013 at 3:02 am

    With havin so much written content do you ever run
    into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any solutions to help stop content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.
    http://www.unikoccasions.com\’s last post: http://www.unikoccasions.com

    Reply
  32. Ah, Andrew your reply was like a drink of water in this desert of misinformation. I swim often and I recently started bringing a small spray bottle with water and powdered ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to shower with after practice. No more stinkies, no more licking my arm 2 hours later and smelling chlorine, and my hair likes it much better now! I just rinse in the shower, then turn the water off, spray myself down and scrub it in, then shower like normal. As for skin appearance, since beginning juicing and eating one avocado daily, along with swimming, I actually have people tell me I look YOUNGER. 1.5% of your body weight is Chlorine. It is actually used by many processes in our bodies. GO SWIM (and take some C water with you) it will increase your lung capacity A LOT and I am sure you know what that is linked to…..

    Reply
      • I don’t know the validity of that information, but no matter, as the powder got it out of my skin. I am not going to avoid the use of chemicals as if they are all bad, simply to avoid the use of chemicals. That would be a tough call, seeing how we are made up of the stuff. Chlorine occurs naturally in our bodies and serves a physiological purpose. If it makes any difference, i decided a while back to consolidate my post swim snack and stinkyz removal routines by taking an orange in the shower with me and using some of the jiuce from that instead, but, amazingly, it gives me the same results as your empty eggshell GMO Powder ‘C’. What point am I missing, btw?

        Reply
  33. Hi Everyone – I have done a ton of research in this area. The issue with chlorine appears to be that it stays bonded to the hair and skin long after swimming. Then, the lingering chlorine continues to damage the hair and skin, leading to damage and irritation.

    Above, someone mentioned vitamin C — I couldn’t agree more. We tested and determined that applying a vitamin C rinse after swimming completely eliminates chlorine. See http://www.SwimSpray.com for more information. Especially look at the News section (listing articles on this topic) and also our Blog. And, feel free to contact us. We literally have a whole library on this topic!

    Best,
    Andrew

    Reply
  34. I’ve had a wonderful experience with Miami Pool Tech out of South FL. From the first visit to evaluate our pool, everyone has been very professional, prompt and courteous. Miami pool Tech treated our pool like it was their own. I would happily recommend Miami pool Tech. If you need good pool maintenance, go to http://www.miamipooltech.com

    Reply
  35. Is it, maybe, a good idea to use the steam room at the end of a swimming session?! As the body tends to sweat immediately and therefore (?) eliminate the harmful chemicals that have just entered your pores?!

    Not an expert, just wondering. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Sitting in the steam room or sauna after swimming in a chlorinated pool, showering immediately getting out of both the pool and the steam room/sauna, really helps to eliminate most of the chlorine odor from my body. I sit in there until sweat is dripping, about 15 to 20 minutes.

      Reply
  36. a Nutropatic dr told me “remember chemistry, Iodine works against Chlorine, so use it if in chlorine. guess i am having a chlorine/iodine war inside me. breathing this in indoor pool also concerns me – thank God i am from South Africa where we learned to swim [life saving & physical activities improve school work. WWi Germans used Chloride/bleach to destroy Brits. Histler used floride/asbestus in his death camp drinking water to subdue them before he killed them, so why are we using it??? Chlorine/bleach only one higher on PH scale - toiled/sink unclogger & we are supposed to take used chlorine.bleach to special disposal places as toxic waste! what are we doing to world water when these pools dump their water load [as in cleaning] into our world water system [the only world we have] Don’t put anything you would not drink into our water system, like down your toiled – we have enough 2nd hand drugs in it now, [we recycle all our water - you could be drinking Washington urine. look at how we are affecting life [born without sex & more] in what we have done to our water
    virginia sharp\’s last post: my car

    Reply
  37. I am looking for a full dry swimsuit so i can swim in contaminated [chlorine/fluoride - as all are here] without being in it. either pools will change water additives or these swim suits will become popular & sell well. World Health Organization say 89% of world population are now hypothyroid & avoid peanuts, soya & CHLORIDE & FLUORIDE – HELP. where can I get such a swim suit????? water activities are good but not this & there are much better options. God does NOT put CHLORIDE/FLOURI(DE in her ocean! life IS important – Save US, not $$, power, ignorance absuse of those in chargei

    Reply
  38. Pingback: Too Much Time in the Pool Can Dry You Out | Kaybu

  39. I get massive headaches from swimming in chlorinated pools. When we go on trips, of course the kids want to hit up the hotel pool, so I always try to find a salt-water (or saline) pool. They are hard to find but so worth it if you can. I don’t get headaches from these pools.

    Reply
  40. Our own families experience with chlorinated pools:
    My youngest daughter used to vomit after swimming in chlorinated pools inside or out, public or private.
    My son gets diarrhea. Probably from swallowing too much.
    My other daughter gets candida infections externally.

    Reply
  41. As a 30 yr. swimming pool professional, let me reassure that despite inherent danger, there is no safer place for your family to swim than in a man made pool. No rip currents, hidden obstructions, sewage intrusion, you get the picture. If the chlorine smells, causes rash, or red eyes, that is an indication of trouble. A pool free of contamination and with a balanced pH will have no odor, will not irritate eyes or skin, and normally contains no more chlorine than what you will find in your home tap water that is suitable for drinking and showering in. Dry skin is however, is a result of over chlorination and there are many strategies available to mitigate or eliminate dry skin associated with swimming in pools.

    Reply
  42. We live in Australia and my son has swimming lessons in a MagnaPool. It is mineral rich water and we love it as we don’t experience any of the chorine issues such a stinky skin/hair or red sore eyes. My only worry is that we are moving area’s in September and I don’t like our chances of finding another swim school that uses this system!

    Reply
  43. Sally-ann Patrick via Facebook June 22, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Most swimming pools are not correctly maintained. The important thing is longer filtering which means less use of chemicals. Ph is vital too, most itchy skin and stinging eyes are from incorrect ph.

    Reply
  44. I’ve read that a soaking bath in epsom salts after swimming in a chlorinated pool is a good idea. It has a detox effect.

    Reply
  45. Sonja Itsamee Della Vecchia via Facebook June 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    It’s sad they still use chlorine, there is a better, safer, cost effective alternative like an Iodiser

    Reply
    • Sandra,
      Did you mean ionizer? Ionizers typically use one or more heavy metals such as copper, silver, or zinc any of which are toxic to marine life if let into waterways. Chlorine is highly reactive and bonds rapidly to nearly anything in the environment rendering it harmless.

      Ultraviolet and ozone are two processes that hold much greater promise.

      Reply
  46. Sonja Itsamee Della Vecchia via Facebook June 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    It’s sad they still use chlorine, there is a better, safer, cost effective alternative like an Iodiser

    Reply
  47. Thanks for the helpful info.
    I read that food grade hydrogen peroxide can be used as an alternative to clean/ SHOCK your pool, not sure about how affective that may be but if anyone has tried it I would appreciate their input. My concern is the effect of the peroxide on my hair.

    Reply
  48. The good Chlorine does in pools definitely outweighs the bad. Can you imagine what toxins and germs would accumulate in swimming pools if not for Chlorine? What must be learned here is to swim in moderation and rinse off before and after swimming (Let’s face it, most of us don’t!). Many people can’t afford the more expensive alternatives. As with any thing else, too much can be harmful so you must use common sense when putting yourself in contact with substances that can irritate.

    Reply
  49. We use a mineral additive that allows us to keep our chlorine levels extremely low for an outdoor pool. We’ve had zero problems since we started using this and much less dry skin problems and irritations. I think it’s called Pool Rx.

    Reply
  50. Very interesting article. I swam competitively for 13 years, year round, and in the summer spent hours and hours in the pool even outside of practice. I never really understood the shower before you get in the pool thing–that is, unless you visably have dirt/grime on you. In my experience, you sweat a TON in the pool if you’re swimming hard enough (pulse 160 for 2 hours). You just don’t feel it as much because you’re wet. I’ve been known to loose up to 2 pounds during a swim practice. Definitely shower afterwards!

    After so many years in the pool, I haven’t experienced any of the above side effects. Both of my kids were easily conceived and are perfectly healthy. I guess something to look out for as I get older?

    Shortly after I graduated high school, I learned they switched to a bromine pool. Just one word on that: ICK! Created an almost visible grease slick on all of the swimmers. They all had really terrible acne, it clogged the filters, and it stunk. They’ve since switched back. The YMCA near us has just switched to a saline type of pool…the verdict is still out on that one. We only go there once a month or so. I guess I’m a big fan of chlorine pools.

    I remember once we went to Florida for a training trip in college around Christmas time. It was very welcome since it was -35 degrees in Iowa when we left. We had an outdoor pool to practice in and the 65 degree weather was awesome to swim in. :)

    Reply
  51. Cristina Marzullo via Facebook June 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    In Ct. the drinking water is like sipping from a chlorinated swimming pool…also a simple shampoo with this water is so damaging to skin and hair…be sure to use pre conditioner pre swimming product before getting into the water or before washing hair with bad tap water….

    Reply
  52. as a holistic hairdresser and real food advocate I liken swimming in chlorine pools (for exercise) to jogging along a major highway. However a refreshing summer swim is part of the summer season for many children and adults. Chlorine is very alkaline and so are soaps and detergents – which is why you can still smell like chlorine after soaping up. What changes this is a dilute vinegar rinse (which has acidicPH and healing). You can mix 1/2 good apple cider vinegar to 1/2 water. Pour this mixture thru your hair and over your skin. You can also put it in a spray bottle (don’t let the solution sit in plastic though). Or a cup of vinegar in the bath. Let sit on the skin for a few minutes then rinse off. This can be done after a thorough soaping if you wish. Vinegar also heals sunburn overnight. Good organic vinegars like Braggs work better than cheap supermarket vinegars.

    Reply
  53. Just wanted to add that chlorine, like bromine, gets absorbed by iodine receptors, thereby blocking full absorption of iodine. So if you swim in pools a lot, you will need to greatly up your iodine intake.

    Also, if you are already getting adequate amounts of iodine, less chlorine will be absorbed.

    Reply
  54. Elizabeth Anne via Facebook June 21, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I spent years training at an indoor pool. I am now allergic to chlorine, and I was sick most of the year, back then.

    Reply
  55. Hi, I just wanted to share my experience. We inherited an above ground pool when we moved to our new home. Last year I bought the USA-made Floatron (available on their website or Amazon) for less than $300. It is solar powered copper ionizer and it works fantastic!! We balance the pool in the spring with chemicals, but then the Floatron is perfectly capable (even in cloudy Michigan!) of keeping the pool crystal clear all summer long with only the barest minimum of chlorine tablets used occasionally. It feels like swimming in rain water, with no nasty smells or irritation of my skin or that of my young children. I highly recommend this product.

    Reply
  56. I have also heard from my chiropractor and other sources that chlorinated water kills some of your beneficial gut bacteria. We swim in the river whenever possible but when my kids occasionally go to a pool party I give them some extra probiotics that day.

    Reply
  57. Hi Sandrine,

    Thank you for your post. Once again a hard dilemma for a parent! It’s almost impossible to keep my kids completely out of the pool this time of the year, though… Can you suggest a good shower filter? I believe our water has chlorine and it would be good to at least shower the kids with non chlorinated water after the pool.

    Thanks,

    Paula

    Reply
  58. In order for the shower before swimming to be effective wouldn’t it have to be in unchlorinated water? I would venture to guess that most pool showers don’t have chlorine filters on them.

    Reply
  59. LOL – we need an article to tell us chlorine smells bad and gives us red, irritated eyes? If people don’t know that it’s unlikely they have access to a pool! Guess this may be helpful to the competitive swimmers (who likely also already know this) but how many are reading this blog? Please.

    Reply
    • Wow! Let’s use our manners in replying here! This info is helpful to some and maybe common knowledge to others. That chlorine is stinky and irritates our eyes was obviously not the only information given in this post.

      And in response to some of the earlier replies, just because you or someone you know swam for years and suffered no ill effects does not negate the fact that chlorine is bad for you. It is simply good to be aware and take precautionary measures when and where you can.

      Reply
      • Hi Melinda,

        We are having a concurrent Facebook discussion on our Nourishing Our Children page and there are those who are not aware of this information. In fact, we routinely have people who are discovering information I present for the first time that is very well known to others. So, I don’t take any information for granted.

        Reply
  60. Thanks Sarah,
    We just bought our “farm” and it has a pool. Some good info. I wonder if the shower before should be cold. If the warm/hot water would open up pores and take more chlorine in?

    Reply
    • Hi Rick,

      Sarah is on vacation and solicited me to write 2 posts in her absence and to answer related questions. My understanding is that the shower before is intended to remove sweat and consumer products such a lotions and shampoos. “When the chemicals used to disinfect the pool mix with organic matter (sweat, hair, urine) or nitrogen-rich substances (commonly found in consumer products) it can create a more toxic agent.” The shower after is intended to wash off the chlorine.

      I think your point about a cold shower before a chorinated pool is valid!

      Reply
      • When I was a small child (40 years ago) all the public pools had a cold shower that you had to go through before getting into the pool (which I hated btw). Nowadays they don’t seem to have those.

        Reply
  61. Our family went on a mini vacation in March and my daughter, Kyra, was the only child who has problems with swimming in the indoor pool. It ruined her hair. After we arrived home from our vacation, I did some research on how to protect her hair next time. Make sure she showers before swimming in the pool. This simple thing makes the hair pores close up. Because the pores are closed, it won’t drink aany of the pool water. I am going to assume it does the same thing with our skin. Then they need to wash down real good after swimming. Thank you for the article.

    Reply
  62. Pingback: The Dangers of Chlorinated Pools and How To Protect Yourself « Robby Comstock

  63. I am in a pool every day. Lap swim at least a mile every day in an indoor pool. I don’t like the chlorine exposure. That said, I feel that the benefit that I get from being physically fit and not tearing up my joints and bones in the process FAR, FAR outweighs any detriment I get from the chlorine. I do shower immediately with Dr. Bronners upon getting out of the pool. I don’t wait until I get home. And I drink raw milk kefir every day to repopulate any gut flora that may get killed off from the chlorine. Once again, as with everything in life, you have to figure out what’s best for you. I know that for me personally, I would not be in as good a shape as I am now without the swimming. I am 55 years old, fit and healthy. Swimming is a wonderful sport and fitness activity that can be enjoyed and engaged in literally from cradle to grave!

    Reply
    • I wholeheartedly concur – I love to swim! I grew up in Laguna Beach from the age of 12 and the community I lived in had an outdoor pool and the beach. I didn’t know anything about the dangers of chlorine but, I preferred the ocean over the pool.

      Reply
    • I’d have to agree-swimming is an amazingly good sport for you. It’s actually the 2nd best sport you can do…even above cross country skiing. Love it!

      Just a side note, I used to work at a swimming school in as part of the training we learned the dangers of accidental drownings. Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water–buckets, puddles, toilets, bath tubs, pools, lakes/rivers. It is SO important to teach your kids how to swim (and how to climb out of a pool), more important (in my opinion) than subjecting them to chlorine for an hour a week. Where I live, there are not very many options for swimming other than chlorinated pools. By all means search out natural bodies of water, but whatever you do teach your kids how to swim. A 5 year old has a lung capacity of a 20 oz bottle of soda and when empty can fill with water in seconds. (Experiment at home by holding a bottle upright under water without the cap…scary.)

      Reply
  64. I asked our naturopath this very question a few years ago. His response, which I thought made a lot of sense, was the exercise and sunshine are so good for you and outweigh a lot of the risks. He said, “no” to indoor swimming which we have avoided since then. He also recommended that I wet my boys’ hair with spring water before they get in. Thus, their hair is already wet and won’t absorb as much. Secondly, he recommended we “lube up” with cocoa butter to give skin lots of moisture and an oily barrier. I think it has really helped, especially my browner skinned boy who tends to be dry anyhow. Not to mention, both boys smell edible like hershey chocolate bars. I thought that this was excellent advice and have followed it ever since. We swim approximately 2-3 times each week over the summer and follow this protocol to good success. Of course, showers as soon as we get home. Hope this is helpful to someone else as well.

    Reply
    • I have a question. I’ve learned that I should wet down the kids and myself before getting into the pool. What about sunscreen? Do you put it on before the showering that you do before getting into the pool? Is this a dumb question (it’s late).

      Reply
      • I don’t think it is a dumb question at all! The truth is, that according to the information I gathered, the whole point of taking a shower before the pool is to rinse off all of the lotions and potions from our bodies – so that we enter the pool clean.

        “Another important reason to shower is that our bodies generally contain residue from consumer products, including perfume, make-up, body lotion, shampoo and sunscreen.

        When the chemicals used to disinfect the pool mix with organic matter (sweat, hair, urine) or nitrogen-rich substances (commonly found in consumer products) it can create a more toxic agent, said Michael Plewa, a professor of genetics at the University of Illinois whose new research has linked pool chemicals to health problems, including asthma and bladder cancer.”

        So I think sunscreen at any point would not serve based on what I read above. I suggest that kids swim for a limited time in the pool without sunscreen if the pool is outdoors and chlorinated.

        After the pool, we are instructed to shower to rinse off the chlorine. Perhaps at that point, if they remain pool side, that would be the time to put on sunscreen, or just cover up.

        Reply
        • Well, your answer was what I mostly expected. That is we should not use sunscreen because it is a lotion, which must be one of the nitrogen-rich substances you described.

          Unfortunately, my children and I are pretty pale and will burn in about 20-30 minutes of mid-day (pool hour) summer sun.

          For me, the knowledge about the dangers of chlorination creates one of those situations where you have to weigh the costs and benefits. Summer pool time holds lots of great childhood memories for me, and my children really love it. We usually go to the city pool for about an hour, about three times per week. This is one of the highlights of summer for my kids. We aren’t afraid of lakes, but the nearest one is about half an hour away, and I don’t feel comfortable taking so many little ones by myself when my partner is working.

          Anyway, for me, this topic will remain on the back burner, and perhaps one day I will change my mind or think of a better solution. :)

          Thank you for the information. I wonder also if you have any source information that you could share?

          Reply
  65. Sarah added the piece about olympic swimmers with wrinkles and hair loss after I submitted the article to her. I have no knowledge of that. I do know however that there are those who report that they do not tolerate chlorinated pools well. If I had a choice between a salt water pool or a chlorinated one, I would choose the salt water. The smell of chlorine alone is one I find offensive.

    I reduce exposure to toxins when I can. There are chloramines in the water I bathe in in the city of San Francisco, however not in the water I drink because of the Radinat Life water filtration system I have installed. I live in a 12 unit building, and so a whole house water filtration system is prohibitive, and there aren’t filters i have found that elimate chloramines In the shower. There are filters that elimate chlorine however, and I would recommend those if one lives in a place where chlorine is in the municipal water.

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      My husband competed in water polo at the national level in Australia and it was a something the guys talked about and discussed among themselves – how men who swim competitively almost always lose their hair at a young age. I thought it was an interesting point to contemplate although I have not seen any supporting research on this, only anecdotal observation.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: The Dangers of Chlorinated Pools and How To Protect Yourself

      Reply
      • My husband swam competitively throughout his childhood into the first year of college. He is 42 now with a very full head of hair (enviously so). I think it was his diet and good hair genes, not the chlorinated pools that determined the hair growth. Maybe the tight swim caps have more to do with that. Many farmers are balding where they always wear their caps, as was the case for both of my husband’s grandfathers. I’m just glad we can avoid chlorinated water now as much as possible.

        Reply
    • Great article Sandrine, however we have learned so much about chloramines in the past few years, I would love to share it with you. First of all, the choice between salt water and chlorine is based only on smell – salt is actually more corrosive and harmful when it becomes chloride. Salt is just site generated chlorine, and produces more harmful disinfectant byproducts than chlorine.

      Chloramines are the issue – trichloramines specifically. They off-gas and become airborne. For indoor pools, they are the cause of the “pool smell”, and yes they are harmful and corrosive. I am a competitive swimmer and had an asthma attack in a chlorine pool–I understand how harmful they are. But there is a system that is changing all of that, and it’s called the Paddock Evacuator. It captures and removes chloramines from indoor pools and works amazingly well. It brings a pristine environment indoors, where you cannot even smell the pool. Google it.

      Reply
  66. Everything in moderation.

    But sometimes it seems as though we should all just live a bubble because “everything” can kill us.

    I grew up swimming at an outdoor pool every summer, almost every day. At 24 I have no side effects of which is claimed in this article.

    I’m just saying. At what point do we stop fearing everything around us and just live the best we can? I like this site and follow other sites like this, but sometimes its more of a “fear factor”. A will kill, B will kill you and C will keep you safe. So stay away from A and B and choose C.

    /rant.

    Reply
    • or better yet we can strive to live in a world where we find something to be harmful and look for a non-toxic alternative. everyone has these moments of dissonance where we feel bad about our past choices and try to defend them even though we know they weren’t the healthiest. the truth is we live in a filthy world of toxic chemicals, yes, and we are all exposed at some level whether we actively avoid them or not.

      Reply
    • i can take decades for cancer to develop so don’t get ahead of yourself saying you have no side effects. not cursing you to have cancer, i am just saying that it is not a good argument. if we know things are toxic, we should not be using them. period.

      Reply
    • Peggy The Primal Parent June 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Spreading information is important. It’s your choice what you do with that information.

      With as many interactions with toxins as an American has each day, it would be wise to cut some of them out. Now you know about pools and you can decide whether that’s going to be on your nix list or not.

      We’re not talking about throwing a clean and healthy hunter-gatherer into a chlorinated pool. We’re talking about us, who breath polluted air, play with plastic toys, eat chemicals, wear synthetic clothes, eat refined foods, were once probably vaccinated, and on and on and on. Modern people have some cleaning up to do.
      Peggy The Primal Parent\’s last post: Caring for Premature Infants With Kangaroo Care

      Reply
      • Chlorine is a destructive halogen element. Fluorine, chlorine, and bromine are halogens that have an affinity for iodine receptors – they essentially deplete your body of iodine. Iodine is absolutely critical for thyroid health and an iodine deficiency will inhibit thyroid hormone production resulting in a low thyroid state.

        Thyroid expert Dr. David Brownstein found that more than 96% of his 5000+ patients tested were iodine deficient. As a public nutritionist I saw huge numbers of people (especially women in their late 30′s, early 40′s) who were suffering from low energy due to hypothyroidism due to low iodine. I wrote quite a bit about the chlorine and fluoride problem in my recent book entitled, “How to Heal your Pineal Gland to facilitate Enlightenment optimize Melatonin and Live Longer (The Enlightenment App).” In addition to the halogen-avoiding strategies I talk about in the book I take 225mcg of supplemental potassium iodide every day.

        :o)

        Reply
          • Potassium is toxic. Iodine is a halogen (also toxic). Zinc will kill you. Guess what? Without them you also die. Might want to explore the consumption of potassium iodide a little closer, it is not necessarily safe.

          • You’re very welcome Sandrine!

            Everything can kill you in the wrong doses poolswami, even water. Stay out of the deep end.

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