Are you or your children suffering from red eyes after being in a public pool? Suffering from stinging, nasal irritation or having difficulty breathing after being in the water or breathing the air at swimming pools, particularly indoor pools?
New research indicates that these symptoms are an indication of poor water and indoor air quality at the pool caused by a build-up of irritants, known as chloramines, in the water and air.
Irritants in the air at swimming pools are usually the combined chlorine by-products of disinfection. These by-products are the result of chlorine binding with sweat, urine, and other waste from swimmers.
As the concentration of by-products in the water increases, they move into the surrounding air as well. Breathing air loaded with irritants can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the concentration of irritants in the air and amount of time the air is breathed.
The symptoms of irritant exposure in the air can range from mild symptoms, such as coughing, to severe symptoms, such as wheezing or aggravating asthma. It is also known that routine breathing of irritants may increase sensitivity to other types of irritants such as fungi and bacteria.
The problem can easily be fixed according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through a combination of preventive measures:
- Improving air movement over the pool and increasing the air turnover rate will reduce irritant levels in the air.
- Open all of the doors and windows in the pool area or to use fans to boost airflow over the pool surface when many swimmers are using the pool. When super chlorinating, do the same.
- Ensure that the air recycling systems are bringing in enough fresh air.
- Maintain adequate disinfectant levels and constant monitoring of water quality will help reduce irritant levels by decreasing combined chlorine formation in the water.
- Adding secondary disinfection systems, such as ultraviolet light or ozone, may reduce combined chlorine levels in the water.
- In addition, good hygiene is needed. Have swimmers shower before getting in the pool.
- Promote regular bathroom use to your children prior and during swimming to reduce the amount of urine in the pool. This decreases the formation of irritants.
For the health of pool staff and patrons, remember that all indoor pools need adequate fresh air exchange and all pools need good water quality. This will help make all pools a healthier and more enjoyable place to play and work.