Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise out there — though it is a whole body workout, swimming is low-impact enough that it's suitable for nearly everyone, even numerous people with injuries or medical conditions. It's additionally great for your mental health, as swimming feels particularly relaxing and refreshing.
What's not to like? Well, if you're swimming in chlorinated pools, you may worry about the long-term health impact swimming pool chlorine could have. On the plus side, chlorine kills many pathogens — quite dead. On a less sunny note, toxic disinfection by-products form in the process of this disinfection.
Could Swimming In Chlorinated Pools Have Any Long-Term Health Risks?
Relatively few scientific studies have been conducted into the possible long-term health risks of swimming in chlorinated pools, and the research that is available is sometimes contradictory. However, the body of currently available research shows that:
- Swimming in chlorinated pools is associated with an increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory complaints. However, there is also research that shows swimming in general decreases the risk of these same conditions, and can even relieve the symptoms in people who have already been diagnosed with asthma and other respiratory conditions — no surprise, because swimming is beneficial for lung function. So, is this something you need to worry about? Only, yet another study shows, if you are a competitive swimmer who spends great periods of time in the pool.
- One study found that swimmers have a slightly higher risk of bladder cancer than those who do not swim in chlorinated pools.
- A rodent study found that rats exposed to chlorinated pools while training to be competitive swimmers (can't make that up!) experienced eye and skin irritation along with "lackluster fur". There were also some respiratory side effects, but the rodents' respiratory tracts did show some adaptability.
Overall, it the general consensus is that the many benefits of swimming outweigh the potential (but yet to be further studied) health risks of chlorine and its toxic byproducts.
What Can I Do To Stay As Safe As Possible While Swimming In A Chlorinated Pool?
Shower both before and after entering the pool — which will ideally have an official policy to that effect. It's obvious that you're showering afterward, with a soap or shower gel, to rid your skin of chlorine. Why before, too? Because products you have on your body (such as perfume and deodorant) and sweat can react with the chlorine to cause toxic byproducts to be produced.
Consider wearing goggles to protect your eyes, and if you happen to wear contact lenses, strongly consider dailies that you can discard after your trip to the pool just for swimming purposes. Since the rat study showed fur damage in the rodents, you may consider wearing a cap to protect your hair, as well.
If you can, swim in an outdoor pool so the chlorine at least has somewhere to go, and you don't continue to breathe it in. In any case, it's nice to get some fresh air after leaving the pool. It may clear your lungs, and will make you feel good regardless.
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