Cancer Risk Seen with Pool Chemicals

Emerging research has found that <"">indoor swimming pools could be linked to respiratory issues and could also cause DNA alterations that lead to cancer, said WebMD. The research looked at pool disinfection byproducts.

And while the research does not call for an end to indoor swimming, the results do send a message to industry that, ”the positive effects of swimming could be increased by reducing the chemicals,” quoted WebMD. “We do not say stop swimming,” said researcher Manolis Kogevinas, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, reported WebMD. “We should keep a clear message that swimmers should keep swimming.”

In this case, both industry and science agree. “It’s good that research is being done in this area,” said Thomas Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization, said WebMD. The research appears online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

According to Kogevinas, ”We have been doing research on chemicals in water—not swimming pools [specifically]—for quite some time,” quoted WebMD. Kogevinas and his team recently switched their focus, in earnest, on indoor swimming pool water. “Chemicals are produced when you put chlorine in water,” said Kogevinas, pointing out that chlorine reacts to urine and cosmetics, both found in swimming pools, for example, said WebMD.

The researchers wanted to distinguish these disinfection byproducts—DBPs—found in indoor pools; prior studies have connected DBP exposure in drinking water to increased bladder cancer risks, wrote WebMD. Of the three new studies, researchers first looked at 49 healthy adults after swimming for about 40 minutes in an indoor chlorinated pool. “What we found is by analyzing blood samples and urine samples, we have an increase in risk markers related to cancer,” Kogevinas told WebMD. Also pool water exposure was linked to a five-fold increase in one of the markers, he added, said WebMD.

In a second study, the team looked at 48 swimmers to see how exposure to indoor pool water affected the respiratory system. “We compared markers of lung injury before and after swimming,” Kogevinas told WebMD. Changes occurred in one blood marker. The third study looked at water and air from two indoor pools. “We shipped them to the EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency],” Kogevinas said, quoted WebMD. The agency found over 100 DBPs in the pool water, some previously unidentified. ”Many are the same chemicals we find in tap water,” he tells WebMD.  “Some have been identified in experimental studies, animal studies, to be harmful,” he added.

Last year we wrote that a study published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (May 15) found that swimming pool chemicals have been linked to thousands of hospital emergency room visits. HealthDay News reported that the trend has been seen in recent years.

Chlorine exposure, at low levels, can cause nose, throat, and eye irritation. At higher levels, breathing rate changes, coughing takes place, and lung damage occurs, explained the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. In some who are exposed, an inflammatory reaction can result—reactive airways dysfunction syndrome or RADS—which is a type of asthma that originates from corrosive substances.

Chlorine-containing molecules have been implicated in the devastation to the upper atmosphere’s ozone layer.

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