We go to great lengths to remove chlorine (and other contaminants) in our drinking water and shower water, and it made me think about the effect of this common chemical in swimming pools and how much that exposure can affect us.
The Problem With Chlorine:
According to this article:
Swimming in a chlorinated pool may increase your risk of developing cancer, suggest a new suite of studies, which identified more than 100 chemical byproducts in pools that use chlorine as a disinfectant.
Another article elaborates:
The first health risk doesn’t even require you to be in the pool. Chloramines are a gas you have probably smelled before (smells like chlorine). This gas is produced by chlorine combining with sweat, sunscreens, germs and urine or other waste in the pool. Chlorine oxidizes as it sanitizes into a gas, and it is especially dangerous for indoor pools with poor ventilation.
Chloramines can cause symptoms such as coughing, and more serious symptoms like wheezing and aggravating asthma. According to the CDC (center for disease control): “breathing of irritants may increase sensitivity to other types of irritants such as fungi and bacteria.
Another study: Increased Asthma cases based on hours spent in chlorine swimming pool. Article: Impact of Chlorinated Swimming Pool Attendance on the Respiratory Health of Adolescents
I have read a number of studies that link the use of Chlorine to sanitize drinking water to increased risk of bladder cancer. In this study by the Oxford Journal Of Medicine they also speak about swimming pool use as a risk factor.
What to Do?
Our whole family loves the water, so while not swimming and filtering our home water would eliminate chlorine exposure, I’m not quite ready to throw the baby out with the pool water…
Thankfully, there are a few things that can be done to help minimize chlorine exposure:
- Avoid chlorinated pools whenever possible. In many places there are options that use salt filters (though these still contain chlorine but in smaller amounts) or UV filters. There are often great places to swim outdoors in some places. Obviously, not swimming in water sources that use chlorine is an easy way to reduce exposure. Thankfully, our local indoor pool uses salt and UV filters and no chlorine.
- Use Vitamin C: Check out this great article and the attached lectures for a great background on how Vitamin C helps neutralize chlorine and undo the damage of chlorine exposure. Turns out taking Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) internally and making some type of solution to rub on the skin can reduce a lot of exposure. Turns out they even make Vitamin C shower filters that are pretty inexpensive and which dechlorinate shower water. Since Vitamin C is often uses in anti-aging serums, this is a win-win solution!
- Protect the skin: Providing a physical barrier on the skin with an oil can also help reduce exposure. I like using my homemade lotion and adding Vitamin C. It is great for skin and protects from chlorine exposure (recipe below!). A commenter pointed out that many public pools do not allow lotions on the skin before using the pool so check with the rules if you use a public pool and check with your pool instructions if using your own pool.
- 1/2 cup almond or olive oil
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup beeswax
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 2 teaspoons vitamin C powder
- Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter
- Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference
How to Make Lotion
- Combine oils and beeswax in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
- In another small jar or bowl, add the vitamin c powder to the warm water and stir until dissolved.
- Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place the jar with the oils inside the saucepan and turn on medium heat.
- As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, pour into a small blender or food processor, or keep in the jar if using an immersion blender that will fit in the top of the jar.
- With blender or food processor on, slowly add the water/vitamin C mixture until blended and emulsified.
- Store in an air-tight glass jar.
- Use before swimming (preferably after rinsing skin) to minimize chlorine exposure. This is purposefully a small batch since no preservatives are used and it will only last one swim season.
- Enjoy and be chlorine free!
Other Options (No DIY required)
Those who use sunscreen can add vitamin C powder to pre-made sunscreen to get the benefits of chlorine reduction and sun protection at the same time.
Do you worry about chlorine exposure? How do you avoid it?