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Health Hazards of Your Pool & Spa

Health Hazards of Your Pool & Spa

Health Hazards of Your Pool & Spa

Summer fun is just around the corner and everyone is getting anxious to get their swimming pools up and running. Many folks have had their hot tubs and spas going all winter long, and now it’s a matter of tweaking the chemicals to ensure all is ‘safe’ and well. Well, guess again! The levels of chemicals in both drinking water and our swimming pools is raising alarm amongst environmentalists. These toxins accumulate in our fatty tissue and arrive there as a consequence of both drinking and bathing in water, eating fish and animal protein, and in fact have permeated the entire food chain. It is unlikely that any form of life on this planet is free of some degree of contamination from such byproducts as dioxin.

Hormonal imbalance, suppressed immune systems, reproductive infertility and disruption of fetal development in both animals and humans has been associated with our municipal water systems and the recreational and residential pools and spas. The argument is not whether we should not treat our water but rather how to treat our water safely. Never before has it become so critical that we protect our home environment from the ravages of unethical political decision-making. Change within the realms of political bureaucracy is painfully slow and complex, but we can change and control the environment within our own homes.

Let’s talk about swimming pools. It has been documented that children inhale more air per unit of body weight than adults, therefore more toxins than their older counterparts. Children exude tremendous energy in swimming pools, gulp plenty of water and breathe in gallons of air compared to the adults sitting on the edge observing the fun. It goes without saying that summer fun has now become of great concern. Suddenly, soaking in your hot tub to relax before bed isn’t quite as enticing. It is most likely that up until now you simply have not found the solution to the dilemma. Keep reading!

Here’s What the Experts Have to Say

  • “Volatile organics can evaporate from water in a shower or bath. Skin absorption of contaminants has been underestimated and ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure.” (American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Halina Brown)
  • The Nader Report states that the exposure to vaporized chemicals in water supplies results in 100 times greater absorption than through drinking water.
  • You absorb 6 to 100 times more of chemical by breathing the air in a shower, bath, hot tub, or swimming pool as opposed to drinking it.
  • “The cause of atherosclerosis and resulting heart attacks and strokes is none other than the ubiquitous chlorine in our water.” (Coronaries, Cholesterol, Chlorine, Dr. J.M. Price, MD) “Chlorine gas was used despicably during WWI. The combination of chlorine and poor diet inevitably results in heart attacks, stroke and death.” (Water Can Undermine Your Health, Dr. N. W. Walker, D.S.)
  • An article in Contemporary Living 1982, said that where hygienic standards for chlorine application to public swimming pools is adhered to, swimmers may experience two to three times more health problems during the summer. Everyone’s eyes are traumatized by chlorine. Chlorine can disintegrate swimsuits, discolor and weaken hair, dry skin, erode tooth enamel, irritate eyes and bring on an asthma attack.

The Truth About Chlorine

Chlorine is used for making plastics, pesticides and paper, although the paper industry is making huge strides to reduce and ultimately eliminate its use but the end is not yet in sight. The wastewaters from these processes are dumped into the water systems often combining with other formidable substances to form yet more hazardous compounds. It is also used to treat water although its byproducts include PCBs, DDT and dioxins and have been associated with such conditions as cancer, immune problems, and fertility among others and are indeed mutagenic and/or carcinogenic.

A recent study found that rates for particular cancers such as rectal cancer escalate with the ingestion of chlorinated water. It has been found that surface water from lakes and reservoirs test higher for chlorine byproducts than deeper water sources. Joe Thornton of Columbia University’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation is the author of a book called Pandora’s Poison, which gives detailed insight into the hazards of chlorine use in today’s society. The environmental impact alone is monumental and its use is irresponsible in light of the numbers of options available.


Trihalomethanes (THM’S), which are a byproduct of chlorine, are formed when chlorine reacts with hair and skin. If people using swimming pools and spa’s treated with chlorine are sure to shower prior to entering the water, the development of THM’s is reduced. The Imperial College London found that even low levels of THM’s found in tap water contribute to spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital malformations. Of course, THM’s are much higher in pools than tap water. The uptake of all chemicals found in water can be as much as 141 times greater in a one hour swim verses a 10 minute shower. On the other hand, a hot shower opens the pores, which allows for even greater permeability of chemicals through both the skin and via inhalation.

Regardless of the studies and concerns of the public, Ralph Riley of the National Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group maintains that, “The medical benefits of swimming far outweigh any problems caused by chemicals.” Now that is an interesting comment, isn’t it? Belinda Phipps, of the National Childbirth Trust highly recommends that the chlorine count in swimming pools be reduced. She states, “The burden of responsibility here lies with the appropriate regulatory bodies and not with pregnant women to restrict their habits and lifestyle because of preventable and unnecessary factors such as this.”

The August 2000 journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine spoke of the hazards of perchlorate in municipal drinking water. They blame even low levels of this chemical for the influx of thyroid problems in children. One of the researchers states, “There is a statistical association between low-level contamination with ammonium perchlorate and elevated or abnormal thyroid function.” Water treatment plants have no way to eliminate this potentially harmful substance that has now leached into the Colorado River system, which is a source of drinking water for over 20 million people.

Ammonium Perchlorate & Thyroid Problems in Children

Ammonium perchlorate is a rocket fuel oxidizer that was produced by Kerr-McGee and the former Pacific Engineering & Production Co. of Nevada, or PEPCON plant, which was located near Henderson until a series of explosions leveled it in 1988. The primary health concern related to perchlorate is that it may interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to use iodine to produce hormones. In a hormone-deficient condition, metabolism, growth and mental development can be affected. In the past, doctors have used relatively high doses of potassium perchlorate to treat patients with hyperactive thyroids. But, neither of the new human occupational studies determined at what amount or exposure level of perchlorate would affect thyroid functions.

Brenda Pohlmann, a state environmental scientist who is tracking perchlorate issues, said development of a drinking water standard for the chemical won’t change the state’s approach on cleaning up perchlorate contamination at production sites upstream of Las Vegas Wash, which empties into Lake Mead. She said the state the chemical taken out entirely. “It’s going to be in the water for awhile until we can treat it and get it down to low levels,” she said. Pohlmann said the highest perchlorate level detected in Lake Mead near Southern Nevada’s drinking supply intakes was 16 parts per billion in December 1997.

Despite opposition from the Pentagon, the Schwarzenegger administration is planning to issue safety guidelines for ammonium perchlorate that has tainted water supplies in 29 states. Environmentalists, however, have criticized California’s pending standards as being too lenient. Studies of laboratory rats have shown that even tiny doses of perchlorate can affect the thyroid’s production of hormones that are critical to early childhood development, which suggests that the pollutant could be particularly threatening to pregnant women and young children. However, the level at which perchlorate poses a danger to human beings remains unclear.

Cyanuric Acid – Yet Another Pool Chemical

Cyanuric acid is sometimes added to pools to protect the chlorine from the deteriorating effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The bad news is that chlorine combined with Cyanuric acid is not an effective killer and the kill time for harmful organisms is drastically reduced. Chlorine in itself is easily weakened by small increases in pH water balance.If the pH becomes too high, chlorine becomes useless. If Cyanuric acid is added, the efficacy of chlorine diminishes even further.

Pesticides in Your Pool

Swimming pools are a major source of atmospheric chloroform, a situation so drastic that some states are classifying pool chemicals as pesticides. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has implemented rules requiring distributors of pool chemicals to be licensed as pesticide applicators. The bottom line is that chemicals are hazardous to the environment. Chlorine alone is simply a convenient method of water sanitization. The problem is its byproducts that are proving to cause cancer and illness in some of the population.

How About Ozone

Ozone swimming pool cleaners are very popular alternatives for chlorine treatment and one of the reasons is that when water is ozonated, algae is oxidized and floats to the top. Metabolic by products of algae are oxidized also, removing odor and taste. So cleaning the pool is not such a frequent or time-consuming job, chemicals are not required and the water is smelling good and clean.

OZONE is an excellent disinfectant, however it produces byproducts of its own such as formaldehyde. All of a sudden Ozone isn’t looking so good. These byproducts must be further examined to determine their potential chronic toxicity. Chlorine dioxide has been used in many systems as a disinfectant however it has two major DBPs which are chlorite and chlorate that both present toxicological risks if ingested. It is estimated that up to 10,000 cancer cases per year are due to chlorine DBPs. As well, the costs for ozone are considerably higher than for chlorine or other alternatives.

Hot Tubs – Little Tubs of Horror

Consider this. The more people in your hot tub, the more skin debris that will contribute to the formation of chloramines. The temperature of the water increases the uptake of pathogens and chemicals into the body. Combine this with alcohol and your chances of a double hangover increase… one from the alcohol entering your system more rapidly and the other from the increased uptake of chemicals. Alcohol acts to expand your blood vessels and increase your body temperature. The combined effect can be damaging as the body temperature can escalate quickly, causing nausea, dizziness, etc.

Questions remain: is it the temperature and alcohol alone? How significantly do the inhalation and absorption of chemicals contribute to health problems? The bottom line is “Bather Beware”!

Why Ionization is better than Chlorine

Ionization is the process of an atom gaining or losing electrons. The Carefree Clearwater system researched generates copper and silver ions for water purification. It is both safe and beneficial to enjoy the waters produced by this system. A safe DC current passes through a sealed chamber where metallic ions are generated for water purification. The algae and bacteria are destroyed because their enzyme processes are changed. Also, these altered particles join together and are pulled out efficiently by the filter.

The Carefree water system uses a minimal halogen level. Using a non-chlorine oxidizer from time to time will be necessary to break up the oils from such things as suntan lotion. The pH is easily maintained by the ions. As far back as the Roman Empire silver goblets and utensils were used intentionally to prevent the spread of disease. Even our own grandmothers used to place a silver dollar in the bottom of the milk jug and wrap silver foil around wounds to expedite healing. Cyrus the Greek, King of Prussia purposefully carried water in silver flagons to preserve the quality of water on expeditions.

The 1930s recognized the bactericidal effectiveness of silver although its application was exercised a mere 40 years ago when the interior walls of reservoirs assisted in protection of water in warm climates. By 1991, the US Environmental Protection Agency officially removed silver from the US Primary Drinking Water Standard List of Contaminants. Chlorine free silver-based water purification systems have been used in Europe for numbers of years. It effectively kills vegetative germs, especially those causing diseases such as typhus, paratyphus, dysentery, colibacillosis, cholera and influenza and mumps.


Copper is an essential daily nutrient and is an algaecide, fungicidal and bactericidal. It is a naturally occurring element incorporated in the production of paints and wood preservatives to inhibit the growth of algae and fungus. Copper is used in the body for ceruloplasmin synthesis, a copper containing protein. This mineral is also beneficial because of its ability to balance sodium and potassium levels. Chocolate is high in copper, and consequently, women crave chocolate near their menstrual period because of a lack of copper. Copper is an excellent algaecide and silver is a powerful bactericide. Copper has been used for years in swimming pools, fountains, lakes and ponds to control algae problems.

The Absolute Necessity of Good Water Inside and Out

Not only is it important to protect yourself from the hazards of recreational water enjoyment, it is also imperative that you address the water you are putting in your body. Did you know that the human body is 70% water? It is actually the absence of water in the system that triggers the hypothalamus, the brain’s thirst center, to relay the message that it’s time to replenish our fluids.


  1. Aiking, H., van Acker, M.B., Scholten, R.J., Feenstra, J.F., & Valkenburg, H.A. (1994). YOUNG SWIMMERS AT GREATEST HEALTH RISK IN CHLORINATED INDOOR POOLS Swimming pool chlorination: a health hazard? Toxicology Letters, 72(1-3), 375-380
  2. Beech, J.A., Diaz, R., Ordaz, C., & Palomeque, B. (1980). Nitrates, chlorates and triha lomethanes in swimming pool water. American Journal of Public Health, 70(1), 79- 82.
  3. Bragg, Paul. Water, The Shocking Truth, page 9.
  4. Centerwall, B.S., Armstrong, C.W., Funkhouser, L.S., & Elzay, R.P. (1986)DENTAL ENAMEL EROSION INCREASED IN COMPETITIVE SWIMMERS IN CHLORINATED POOLS . Erosion of dental enamel among competitive swimmers at a gas-chlorinated swimming pool. American Journal of Epidemiology, 123(4), 641-647.
  5. Decker, W.J., & Koch, H.F. (1978). Chlorine poisoning at the swimming pool: an overlooked hazard. Clinical Toxicology, 13(3), 377-381.
  6. Drobnic, F., Freixa, A., Casan, P., Sanchis, J., & Guardino, X. (1996). EXERCISING IN CREASES THE TOXICITY OF A “SAFE” CHLORINATED POOL ATMOSPHERE Assessment of chlorine exposure in swimmers during training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28(2), 271-274.
  7. Mustchin, C.P., & Pickering, C.A. (1979). “Coughing water”: bronchial hyper-reactivity in duced by swimming in a chlorinated pool. Thorax, 34(5), 682-683.
  8. NEW SCIENTIST 18 September, 19986, Ian Anderson
  9. Rozelle, Lee T. PhD, Chlorines Future Bodes Well for POU/POE Industry, Water Conditioning and Purification February 1993, page 48-53.
  10. U.S. News and World Report, July 29, 1991, Is Your Water Safe – The Dangerous State of Your Water.
    Herman, Eric, Pool and spa News, January 14, 1991, facing the Cyanurate Riddel, page 74 80.

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