Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Really Good Reason to Shower Before Hopping in the Pool

kids in a swimming pool
(photo by John Watson)
based on a news article from Environment News Service, "Disinfectants Turn Swimming Pools Into Toxic Brews," Mar 31, 2009

Chemicals used to treat both drinking water and swimming pool water reacts with organic material to form disinfection by-products (DBPs). Ho-hum... why should we care, right?

We should care because when you add swimmers to a pool you have just added lots of organic material. A new study by the University of Illinois shows that of the hundreds of compounds created, some are toxic, some cause birth defects, some cause cancer and others are genotoxic, which means that they damage DNA.

It has long been known that professional and athletic swimmers have a higher rate of both asthma and bladder cancer than the regular population. They have more exposure to these chemicals, which may either be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Michael Plewa, the team’s leading geneticist, says that swimming pools and hot tubs are DBP reactors. "You've got all of this organic material called people - and people sweat and use sunscreen and wear cosmetics that come off in the water. People may urinate in a public pool. Hair falls into the water and then this water is chlorinated. But the water is recycled again and again so the levels of DBPs can be ten-fold higher than what you have in drinking water.”

This is why people are asked to bathe or shower before entering a public pool. "It's the organic material that gets in the pool that is disinfected and then recirculated over and over again. That's why we call swimming pools disinfectant by-product reactors," said Plewa. "But by public education, by personal behavior, there should be ways that we can reduce the levels of the dissolved organic material that should reduce the level of DBPs."

The study found that DBPs containing nitrogen are much more toxic than those that do not. They also found the same result for DBPs with iodine. Plewa added, “we've made two fundamental discoveries that hopefully will aid the U.S. EPA in their regulatory decisions." Neither nitrogen nor iodine in DBPs is currently regulated.

Public pools are highly chlorinated to keep bacteria and pathogens down but very little research has been done before now to evaluate levels of the disinfection by-products generated.

Plewa and his team of scientists received a Science and Technology award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their paper, "Occurrence, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of regulated and emerging disinfection by-products in drinking water: A review and roadmap for research." It was published in the scientific journal "Mutation Research."

Go To for all the news
See Get Off The Couch

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails