For American’s, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer time. When we think of summer, we often remember warm nights, long, hot days, and, of course, pools to cool us down. After the summer ends, many people head to hot tubs and Jacuzzis to help warm themselves up and relax muscles. You might think that your pool man is taking care of any possible germs by adding chlorine, but according to new research, even after cleaning, many of these enjoyable water features harbors dangerous germs and bacteria.
New research, recently published in the American Chemical Society’s journal explains that ,while many common disinfectants, such as bromine or chlorine, do kill pathogens, it’s when people mix cleaners with other types of substances that we run into trouble. The mixture of chlorine, ozone, or bromine with organic matter in the water creates a dangerous new compound called disinfection byproducts.
Why These Byproducts Matter
When you mix disinfecting products, such as chlorine, in water that contains organic matter (such as sweat, uric acid, urine, cosmetics, sunscreen, suntan lotion, etc.) there is a chemical reaction that takes place and it’s not a pretty one.
What the Research Found
Scientists on this team from the University of South Carolina, tested water from both public and private pools, Jacuzzis, and hot tubs after what would be considered normal use, and then again after “intense” use, meaning after quite a few people had been in the water.
The study found that not only were there more than 100 byproducts floating around in the water, but that the samples were actually as much as 4.1 times more mutagenic than plain old tap water. In fact, some of these disinfection byproducts were not even found in the tap water that was used to fill the pools. While no one plans on drinking pool or hot tub water, it does happen, and, some of these byproducts go right through your skin, directly into the blood.
Are These Byproducts Dangerous?
In a word, yes. These types of mutagenic, inorganic compounds have the ability to cause serious, perhaps even severe, harm to the cells of the body. This study would help to explain previous studies which have found that those who swim or work in or around pools have much higher rates of bladder cancer and respiratory problems. Minor health problems would include sore throats, phlegm, red or itchy eyes, skin issues, and more frequent flu and cold viruses.
If you have ever spent a summer swimming in a public or even a neighborhood pool, you already know the effect that these disinfecting chemicals can have on your hair, but would these byproducts make the problem even worse? Scientists say that it’s possible, but they haven’t conducted a study to reach any conclusions on hair.
What Should You Do?
Scientists admit that many of the common problems people have from swimming pools and hot tubs, such as skin irritation, come from improper levels of disinfectant being used (too much or not enough) and/or an improper pH balance of the water.
Researchers suggest that people change the water more frequently and that having bathers take a rinse in a shower before entering the pool or hot tub will help. They also suggested that using products that contain polyhexamethylene biguanide, often referred to as simply “biguanide”, are very effective alternatives to chlorine and bromine.