Tuesday, July 6, 2010

CHLORINE: should we swim in it?


We know that it's not a good idea to drink chlorine (one of the reasons we filter our drinking water) and we know it's not a good idea to bathe in it (hence the shower and bath filters), so what about swimming in it?

I LOVE swimming laps.  If I had my druthers (and a million bucks), I would wake up every single morning and swim a mile in my own indoor non-chlorinated pool.  Since I do not have my own pool, I have been going to a public pool to teach my son to swim and get in some laps every few days.  This has proved to be challenging in a big way and for one main reason--the chlorine.  My sinuses are fried after swimming, our swim clothes wreak even after multiple washes (so does our skin, even after brushing) and we both sneeze like crazy the rest of the entire day.  The whole thing has me thinking, are the benefits of swimming worth the dangers of chlorine?

Since we are not supposed to put anything on our skin that we wouldn't eat, it doesn't make much sense to marinate ourselves in chlorine, right?  Dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known to man, is a by-product of chlorine and is considered by the EPA to be 300,000 times more dangerous than the ultra-scary DDT.  Dioxin is the reason there are warnings about white coffee filters--while the coffee is brewing, dioxin is seeping into your coffee via the bleached filter!  This strikes me as very insidious.  Paper--toilet paper, even diapers contain dioxin!  All because some people associate sanitary and clean with bleached white.  Paradigm shift needed desperately.  At what point does common sense and reason become the norm?  Dioxin is also found in food products such as cheese, but more on that later.

There are all sorts of warnings due to Dioxin.  We are ingesting Dioxin every day to the tune of up to 600 times the EPA's suggested limit (as though any is okay).  This in turn leads to a ridiculous amount of health issues from allergies to cancer.

Pools that are indoors are worse than outdoor pools because you are breathing in so much chlorine along with what is being absorbed through the skin.  I've read that you could drink a quart of pool water and absorb less toxins than what you absorb by swimming in it for a half an hour.  Here's a link to some references specific to the hazards of chlorine pools.

Dr. Weil has a post about some of the dangers of swimming in chlorinated water but then goes on to suggest wearing a mask and snorkel as a solution--seriously?  I mean, thanks for addressing it, but surely we can do better than this.  To be fair, he does suggest lobbying and discussing the matter with managers at our local pools--this we can all do easily and maybe if they hear it enough, there will be change.

My conclusion:  at this point I do not have access to a non-chlorinated pool.  The danger of my son not knowing how to swim will for now outweigh the danger of the pool.  However, I will limit our exposure to once or twice per week and I will seek alternatives.

image credit: ecstaticist

5 comments:

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The EcoDiva said...

I know what you mean. We spent several hours in an indoor pool today and I really felt sick. I did have fun because the kiddos did. And I can't say we will stop going forever. I just have to drink lots of water before and after to cleanse. The only other option is the Lake or a salt water pool which is 30 minutes away.

Thanks for the great post ;)

天花天花 said...

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Mary said...

While I’m glad you’re concerned for your and your child’s safety, dioxin is not an issue in chlorinated pools. There’s a good reason chlorine is used to disinfect pools— it’s effective at killing the germs that cause illnesses like diarrhea and swimmer’s ear. A properly managed pool should have no strong chemical odor. For more information on swimming pools, you might find http://healthypools.org to be a good resource.

Best,
Mary

Mary Ostrowski
American Chemistry Council

bitt said...

Interesting. I used to swim in a chlorinated pool a lot and noticed it was really eating away at my swimsuit. i wondered what else it would do. I would rather swim in a lake but they are so cold here! We have one salt pool that is not chlorinated but it is about a half hour away. Not convenient.

Thanks for the info.