Swimming pools: an asthma risk?

Taking a dip in a pool is a great way to beat the summer heat, but for some of us the pool contains a toxic cocktail. The swimming pool has provided a haven from the heat for generations of Australians. Springing up in towns and backyards in the '60s, the pool offered a healthy alternative to polluted beaches and waterways. The smell of chlorine became a part of Aussie life, and swimming became part of the national psyche. But the very thing that makes pools healthy for many – chlorine-based disinfectant – makes it a potential health hazard for others. Chlorine-based disinfectants (hypochlorite, chlorine and chloroisocyanurates) inactivate a wide range of water-borne pathogens. But when these chemicals react with organic matter such as urine and sweat, chlorine releases a mixture of by-products that can irritate the eyes, skin and upper airways. Recent research by Belgian scientists published in Pediatrics has added to the theory that chlorine in swimming pools can increase the incidence of asthma, allergic rhinitis and hayfever in those who are vulnerable to allergies. The researchers examined 847 students between 13 and 18 years of age who had been swimming in indoor chlorinated and unchlorinated pools. They found that children who were allergy sensitive were more likely to develop asthma and other allergies if they swam in chlorinated pools. Those who spent more than 1000 hours in chlorinated pools were up to 14.9 times more likely to have asthma and 3.5 times more likely to have allergic rhinitis. Children who were not allergy sensitive or who had swum only in pools solely disinfected with copper or silver ion-based sanitisers...
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