Exposure to the chlorinated water is said to be one of the many factors responsible for causing asthma. Swimming in the chlorinated pools daily may exacerbate the pre-existing asthma. To know more about how does chlorine in water boost asthma, read on…
Does chlorine in water boost asthma? Well, some studies have revealed convincing results that point out chlorine as a potential asthma trigger. We all know that swimming is an excellent cardio workout, but when done in the chlorinated pools daily, it may eventually harm the lung tissue, leading to asthma. So, asthma sufferers are likely to experience worsening of their symptoms when swimming in the chlorinated water. Now, why chlorine and asthma do not go well together, is discussed below:
Chlorinated Water and Asthma
Those who are under the impression that chlorinated water cannot aggravate or cause asthma symptoms should first consider this data: The team manager of swimming team representing the United States in 2000 Olympics made an announcement that made their rival teams leap with joy. He announced that 25% of the team is not completely fit as some of the swimmers are diagnosed with asthma. Although the swimmers were not at all suffering from severe asthma, however it pointed out a link between chlorine and asthma risk.
Basically, chlorine is a disinfectant, and hence, is added in swimming pools to destroy the harmful microbes. However, it is observed that while swimming, chlorine combines with the swimmers’ sweat, saliva, hair follicles, skin cells, cosmetics and even urine to release a number of chemical compounds known as Trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs that are also formed when chlorine reacts with water, are the ones that can induce and worsen the asthma.
Now, the question arises, if the swimmer is not drinking the pool water, how do these chemicals gain access to the lungs? The answer is quite simple – although these chemicals are in solid or liquid state, upon reaching the surface of the water, they turn volatile. Once they become volatile, they readily combine with air, which is inhaled frequently while swimming. Thus, the surrounding air acts as a medium of transportation for the THMs to the lungs. So, one can say that vapors of chlorinated water, when inhaled regularly can cause asthma.
A frequent exposure to THMs, results in inflammation of the lining of the respiratory tract, eventually triggering asthma symptoms. This happens because these water disinfectants are notorious for irritating the respiratory tract. Hence, their inhalation triggers an inflammatory response, resulting in narrowing of airways and subsequently causing asthma. No wonder, an increasing number of lifeguards and swim coaches complain about asthma symptoms. Their jobs demand staying near or inside the swimming pool for longer amounts of time. This in turn, prolongs their exposure to environment high in THMs, thereby making them susceptible to asthma.
In one study, it was observed that changing the environment of lifeguards and swimming coaches helped to improve their asthma considerably. In fact, asthma symptoms vanished after a certain period of time. This again proved that staying in an environment high in THMs contributes to the development of asthma.
Swimming pool environment does harm the lungs was also evident from another study. In the study, around 200 subjects who were school going kids in the age group of 8-10, had been asked to sit near the swimming pool for just over 15 minutes everyday. The study was continued for a specific duration of time and then results specifying the health of their lungs were examined carefully. It was observed that the lung tissues showed deterioration in varying degrees depending upon how long they stayed near the swimming pool. The study concluded that environment laden with THMs contributes to lung tissue damage and triggers asthma.
In another study, it was found that the risk of asthma due to chlorinated swimming pools is higher in people who are sensitive to allergies. The study in which approximately 850 children in the age group of 13-18 participated was conducted under the supervision of Belgian scientists. The result showed that children who are susceptible to allergies and swimming in chlorinated water have a higher chance of contracting asthma. Further the study concluded that chances of occurrence of asthma increase by almost 15 times in allergy sensitive children who are spending over 1000 hours in chlorinated water in their lifetime.
Considering the health hazards of swimming in chlorinated pools, is there any other way to clean the pool water? The research conducted by Belgian scientists also had a good news in store for competitive swimmers. The scientists after analyzing the condition of all the participants concluded that cleaning pools with copper or silver based disinfectants does not have any negative impact on health. To be more specific, healthy individuals taking a dip in swimming pools that contain silver/copper based disinfectants are unlikely to suffer from respiratory disorders. Using disinfectants that are a combination of chlorine and copper/silver ions is also a good option. This method effectively lowers the concentration of chlorine in pools, which helps to reduce the risk of asthma.
Chlorine Side Effects
Chlorine alone is not stable and hence, is always found in its compound form, the most common being sodium chloride and sodium hypochlorite. The one that is added to a swimming pool is usually sodium hypochlorite. Although chlorine added in water kills bacteria and protects us from water-borne illnesses, its vapors are said to be toxic. Chlorine gas is poisonous and when inhaled can trigger respiratory damage. Inhalation of chlorine gas for long periods of time can even cause death. Too much chlorine in pool water can also irritate the eyes and nose. Eyes becoming red is one of the most common side effects of swimming in chlorinated water. Small studies also suggest that swimming in the chlorinated pools and even taking a bath in chlorinated water daily increases the risk of various types of cancer.
Keep in mind that there are no extensive studies that confirm chlorinated pools as a major contributor to asthma attack. Yet, one should be extra careful when it comes to swimming in pools. Swimmers are advised to take a shower before entering the swimming pool. A proper shower bath will remove most of the dead skin cells that combine with chlorine to form harmful chemical compounds. Adding freshwater to swimming pools on a regular basis and urinating in the toilet (and not in the pool) can go a long way in minimizing exposure to THMs. Toddlers and small children have the habit of urinating in pools. So, as parents, you should not hesitate to take your children as often as possible to the toilet room.
On the whole, swimming everyday is no doubt a healthy way to keep the body in a good shape. However, make sure you choose the right swimming pool so as to prevent this outdoor activity from becoming harmful.