School is out (or nearly out, depending on where you live), the pools are open, and all the kids are jumping in! Swimming is a great way for kids (and their grown-ups) to get exercise and spend time outdoors. The only fly in the ointment: chlorine.
Although it effectively kills some potentially very nasty germs in the pool water, chlorine is a chemical toxicant that can threaten some kids’ health. Chlorine fumes can trigger an asthma attack in a child who already has asthma. And recent research shows that frequent swimming in chlorinated pools can increase the risk of developing asthma in young children. When it binds with sweat or urine in pools, chlorine forms chloramines, which can irritate eyes, noses, and lungs.
So what’s a fun-loving parent to do? Here are some practical tips.
• Avoid poorly ventilated indoor pools.
• Seek out pools disinfected with ozone, or other less toxic methods. Salt water pools generally require less added chlorine.
• Ask pool management how their pool is disinfected and ventilated.
• If you smell a strong chlorine smell, don’t go in the water; it’s likely a sign of chloramines.
• Explain to your kids not to swallow pool water—or even get it in their mouths, if possible.
• Lessen the germ level in pools by showering before you go in, and not swimming when sick.
• Shower when you’re done swimming.
• Avoid swimming in a heavily chlorinated pool daily.
And when you get home, check out your laundry room for any chlorine bleach-based products. Especially if you’re pregnant or have young children, it’s best to use green cleaning products to keep your home toxin-free.