Is Pool Chlorine Bad for You?

I don’t want to put a damper on your summer fun… but that chlorine in your pool is a pretty powerful chemical. Chlorine can be highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract if not diluted.

The upside of chlorine: this chemical helps disinfect the pool water. It helps curb algae growth and keep bacteria under control. Swimming in a contaminated pool can be dangerous to your health!

The downsides of chlorine:

  • A 2006 study found that children who are prone to asthma are at increased risk of developing the disease if they swim regularly in an indoor chlorinated pool.
  • Over-chlorinated pools have been linked with poor lung function, erosion of dental enamel, and an increased risk of bladder cancer.
  • Chlorine can interact with organic matter like leaves and dirt to form toxic trihalomethanes. These compounds have been linked with an increased risk of cancer, miscarriage, and birth defects.

Don’t let this scare you away from the pool! Swimming is great exercise, both as a cardio workout and muscle building workout. Activity in the water puts very little pressure on your joints.

You can make your swim safe by:

  • Using appropriate levels of chlorine and testing your water regularly. High levels of chlorine are far more dangerous than low ones.
  • Swimming in outdoor pools, rather than indoor ones — this allows chlorine gas to disperse more easily.
  • Wearing a mask and/or goggles to protect your mouth, nose, and eyes from contact with chlorinated water.
  • Taking a break between swims — swim every other day, rather than every day in a chlorinated pool.

There is another option — switch from a chlorine-based pool disinfection system to another method. Former U.S. Surgeon General Andrew Weil suggests a silver-copper ion generator for pool disinfection. It controls algae and bacteria in the water without using harsh chlorine.