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Viruses- deactivated & destroyed by Secondary Sanitation Technology

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“Viruses are the smallest of all the microbes. They are said to be so small that 500 million rhinoviruses (which cause the common cold) could fit on to the head of a pin. They are unique because they are only alive and able to multiply inside the cells of other living things. The cell they multiply in is called the host cell.

A virus is made up of a core of genetic material, either DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protective coat called a capsid which is made up of protein. Sometimes the capsid is surrounded by an additional spikey coat called the envelope.”

When it comes into contact with a host cell, a virus can insert its genetic material into its host, literally taking over the host’s functions.

An infected cell produces more viral protein and genetic material instead of its usual products. Some viruses may remain dormant inside host cells for long periods, causing no obvious change in their host cells (a stage known as the lysogenic phase). But when a dormant virus is stimulated, it enters the lytic phase: new viruses are formed, self-assemble, and burst out of the host cell, killing the cell and going on to infect other cells. Viruses attack bacteria, known as the lambda bacteriophage, which measures roughly 200 nanometers.

 

So, with all that being said, how are viruses treated in our local swimming pools?

If the local pool water is treated with only chlorine (1ppm Free chlorine, pH 7.5 and Temp 26 degrees Celsius), according to the CDC, it takes approximately 16 minutes for viruses to be killed. Viruses are chlorine resistant, meaning they are not easily destroyed by chlorine alone.

Whilst most Australian commercial pools operate at levels higher than 1ppm of chlorine, they also often have water at temperatures higher than 26 degrees Celsius and have the most important variable, pH, to consistently maintain to ensure there is more active chlorine (Hypochlorous Acid) than there is inactive chlorine (Hypochlorite Ion) in the water.

However, if your local pool has a form of ‘secondary sanitation’ equipment fitted to its plant room, which is not reliant on maintaining constant pH levels to be effective, then the risk of a swimmer contracting a virus is significantly decreased.

 

What is secondary sanitation?

Secondary sanitation is the second line of defense for chlorine (primary sanitiser) and is highly recommended for use on every public pool by the health departments in every state and territory of Australia as it provides the most effective treatment when it comes to the smallest pathogens such as viruses.

 

What types are there?

There are three main types of secondary sanitisers used, which are listed below from least oxidation potential through to the greatest oxidation potential;

1) Ultraviolet Light (UV)

2) Ozone gas (O3)

3) Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP), which combines UV and Ozone technology to produce Hydroxyl Radicals.

 

How does Ultraviolet Light (UV) work?

Anne Rammelsberg, a chemistry professor at Millikin University, offers this explanation:

Ultraviolet (UV) light kills cells by damaging their DNA. The light initiates a reaction between two molecules of thymine, one of the bases that make up DNA. The resulting thymine dimer is very stable, but repair of this kind of DNA damage – usually by excising or removing the two bases and filling in the gaps with new nucleotides is fairly efficient. Even so, it breaks down when the damage is extensive.

The longer the exposure to UV light, the more thymine dimers are formed in the DNA and the greater the risk of an incorrect repair or a “missed” dimer. If cellular processes are disrupted because of an incorrect repair or remaining damage, the cell cannot carry out its normal functions. At this point, there are two possibilities, depending on the extent and location of the damage. If the damage is not too extensive, cancerous or precancerous cells are created from healthy cells. If it is widespread, the cell will die.

How does Ozone gas (O3) work?

Ozone (O3) is formed when a high-voltage arc passes through the air between two electrodes. It is also formed photochemically in the atmosphere, and it is one of the constituents of smog. Ozone is a bluish and toxic gas with a pungent odor. Ozone is unstable because it breaks down to give molecular oxygen. Its low solubility and instability require that it is to be generated on site and introduced into the water as fine bubbles.

How does Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) work?

Conventional oxidation processes are used in water treatment to disinfect water, to reduce toxins, odour and colour or to reduce manganese and iron levels in potable water. These processes may not destroy all toxins and have the potential to create dangerous disinfection by-products (DBPs). Advanced oxidation process (AOP) utilises the strong oxidising power of hydroxyl radicals that can reduce organic compounds to harmless end products such as oxygen.

Oxidation is defined as the transfer of one or more electrons from an electron donor(reductant) to an electron acceptor (oxidant) which has a higher affinity for electrons. These electron transfers result in the chemical transformation of both the oxidant and the reductant.

In advanced oxidation processes AOPs the hydroxide radical, OH not the OH¯ hydroxyl ion as in bases, is produced in a first step. This molecule has a very strong oxidizing and disrupting ability that may, depending on conditions, turn a complex (recalcitrant or refractory), organic molecule into CO2 and H2O.

The first reaction of OH with many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is the removal of a hydrogen atom, forming water and an alkyl radical (R). OH + RH  H2O + R Oxidation reactions that produce radicals tend to be followed by additional oxidation reactions between the radical oxidants and other reactants, (both organic and inorganic), until stable oxidation products are formed.

AOPs are reactions where first, hydroxyl radicals are produced, secondly, these radicals react with and destroy degradable organic and inorganic compounds. Typically, methods such as Ultraviolet light (UV), Ozone gas (O3), Hydrogen peroxide H2O2, Fenton’s and titanium dioxide TiO2 are combined (synergistic effect) to increase OH formation. Combining methods increases reaction rates 100 – 1000 times compared to using either ozone, H2O2 or UV alone.

Written by: John Morrison BSc

 

References

Emiliana, C. Extinction and Viruses. BioSystems 31: 155-159. 1993.

Microbiology Society. Viruses. 2020.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), May 4, 2016.

Scientific American. How does ultraviolet light kill cells? 2018.

Washington University. Why is ozone such a good oxidizing agent? General chemistry lab tutorial. 2001.

Dr Bill Grote. Application of Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) in water treatment. June 2012.

Department of Health and Human Services, State of Victoria. 2019

Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2013.

Department of Health, Government of Western Australia. 2020.

Department of Health, Queensland Government. 2019.

Department of Health, Northern Territory Government. 2006.

Department of Health, Australian Capital Territory Government. 1999.

Department of Health, South Australia Government. 2013.

13/03/2020

Swimming with Asthma

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Is swimming a good activity for young Asthmatics?

It’s well documented that regular swimming activity can be great for those suffering with the medical condition known as Asthma.

“Asthma is a medical condition that affects the airways (the breathing tubes that carry air into our lungs). From time to time, people with asthma find it hard to breath in and out, because the airways to the lungs become narrower – like trying to breathe through a thin straw”.

This is a condition that I in fact suffered at a young age. I would randomly and uncontrollably cough and splutter, which left me gasping and struggling for air at times. This was especially so when my heart rate increased from participating in various types of exercise. And being an active kid who loved sports, this was an ongoing problem and a real handicap. I remember what an amazing feeling and relief it was to breath normally again, thanks to multiple puffs on my Ventolin inhaler.

Compared to other sports, swimming has been found to less likely trigger Asthma. The recumbent exercise of swimming can also produce a greater central blood flow than upright forms of exercise.

Some studies have shown that young asthmatics participating in regular swimming activities resulted in a decrease in the frequency of wheezing days, a decrease in the days needing medication, a decrease in emergency room visits, and an increase in school attendance.

Interestingly, in each of the Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972 there were gold medalists who had Asthma, which just shows not only can you enjoy the benefits of swimming with Asthma, but you can even excel in the sport.

But what if the water quality is poor?

Whether you suffer from Asthma or not, poor water quality can significantly affect your health but especially so for Asthmatics. Some studies suggest that healthy children can have their lung epithelium damaged and promote the development of Asthma as a result of swimming in poor water quality of both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

What issues with poor water quality should you be concerned about?

Nitrogen trichloride (Trichloramine) is a disinfection byproduct (DBP) produced when chlorine, commonly used as a sanitiser in pools, reacts with urea (ammonia product), which comes from sweat and urine constantly released by swimmers. This chlorine byproduct can cause irritation of a swimmer’s airway, especially if already suffering with Asthma, as well as irritate the eyes.

Haloacetic acids (HAA’s), another DBP formed when chlorine reacts with organic products released by swimmers. Some HAA’s are considered ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Are the benefits of the swimming activity outweighed by other risks to one’s health?

It’s no doubt that swimming is a good physical activity for Asthmatics, but only if the water quality is healthy via the correct methods of water treatment that remove not only dissolved chlorine disinfectant byproducts (DBP) but also the gasses too. Such treatment methods include Ozone and Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP).

Written by: John Morrison BSc

References

21/02/2020

Mineral Pools, are they chlorine free?

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Mineral Pools, are they chlorine free?

With the craze of ‘mineral’ pools that has hit the pool industry over the last 5 or so years, its important to understand how it all works.

Let’s start with where it all began, the backyard salt (sodium salt) chlorinator. All you had to do was throw in bags of salt and walk away. Ahhhhh that salt water beach feeling! No more manually dosing the pool with chlorine sanitiser either.

Then came along the ‘Mineral’ salt (blends of salts and trace elements, magnesium + potassium + calcium + zinc + copper + iron) chlorinator. It’s driving force the ability of the minerals and trace elements to be dermally absorbed into the skin while swimming to alleviate muscle aches, bring oxygen to the body’s cells, alleviate eczema, relax the nervous system and even soften the water.

Sodium salts or magnesium salts alone are NOT a sanitiser! However, they are both used to make chlorine (sodium hypochlorite), which is a sanitiser.

So how do we make chlorine out of salts? Electrolysis!

The process involves passing salt water (which is a good electrical conductor) through what is called a ‘cell housing’, which houses a cell, made of a series of flat titanium plates coated with iridium and ruthenium and aligned parallel to each other in the cell housing. Electricity is applied to these titanium plates, which separates the chemical bonds of the salts (sodium chlorine/ magnesium chloride) and in the process creates chlorine gas (Cl2), hydrogen gas (h2) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The chlorine gas reacts with water (H2O) to form Sodium hypochlorite.

For the chlorinators to work they require specific levels (anywhere from 2500ppm up to 8500ppm) of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), which a big component of is achieved by the addition of salts. If there is not a sufficient level of TDS the chlorinator will not produce chlorine. If the level of TDS is too high the chlorinator will shut off in order to prevent overload on the cell.

Fresh water chlorination is a whole new kettle of fish! These systems run with very low TDS levels, as low as 1200ppm. They don’t require salt or minerals to be added to the water to produce chlorine, as typically once the pool is filled with water and balanced with chemicals (calcium, alkalinity, acid) the TDS level is sufficient for operation of the fresh water chlorinators to start producing chlorine.

It is a good time to note that a sanitiser level maintained by salt, mineral or fresh water chlorinators (2-4ppm) will not remove inorganic and organic waste products (food source for bacteria), nor destroy chlorine by-products (irritants to the skin and eyes) and does very little for chlorine resistant parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

19/12/2019

Haloacetic Acids Disinfectant byproduct

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Another set of chlorine disinfectant byproduct (DBPs)

Haloacetic acids (HAAs) are formed, along with other Trihalomethanes (THMs) and chlorate, when chlorine is used as a disinfectant in water, which in turn reacts with organic waste products, which are continually being contributed to the water (e.g. by swimmers), to form chlorine disinfectant byproducts (DBPs). This is the exact primary sanitation process that takes place at your local swimming pool.

There are 9 known HAAs, Australia regulates the first 5 of these 9 in drinking water. These levels are compared to that of the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested levels below:

Australia

(WHO)

Health risk

1. Monochloroacetic acid (MCAA)

<0.15ppm

<0.02ppm

Group 3

2. Dichloroacetic acid (DCAA)

<0.1ppm

<0.05ppm

Group 2B

3. Trichloroacdetic acid (TCAA)

<0.1ppm

<0.2ppm

Group 2B

4. Monobromoacetic acid (MBAA)

<0.15ppm

<0.2ppm

Group 3

5. Dibromoacetic acid (DBAA)

<0.1ppm

<0.05ppm

Group 2B

6. Bromochloroacetic acid (BCAA) Group 2B
7. Bromodichloroacetic acid (BDCAA) <0.1ppm <0.5ppm Group 3
8. Dibromochloroacetic acid (DBCAA) Group 3
9. Tribromoacetic acid (TBAA) Group 3

Below are the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) category group explanations as per scientific studies conducted:

-The category Group 1 is labelled ‘Carcinogenic to humans.’

-The category Group 2A is labelled ‘Probably carcinogenic to humans.’

-The category Group 2B is labelled ‘Possibly carcinogenic to humans.’

-The category Group 3 is labeled ‘Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity.’

As a result of prolonged exposure to the above HAAs, Increased incidences of tumors in several organs including the liver and kidney, as well as effects to the male sperm and its production were identified in the experimental studies conducted on both rats and mice.

“There are no epidemiological studies of TCA carcinogenicity in humans. Most of the human health data for chlorinated acetic acids concern components of complex mixtures of water disinfectant byproducts. These complex mixtures of disinfectant byproducts have been associated with increased potential for bladder, rectal, and colon cancer in humans [reviewed by Boorman et al. (1999); Mills et al. (1998)].”

Trihalomethanes (THMs) are also regulated in Australia in drinking water, with the limit being <0.25ppm.

A question I am left with is: Why are HAAs and THMs regulated in Australia for drinking water, however they’re NOT regulated in Australia for the commercial pool industry?

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

 

25/10/2019

Healthy or unhealthy workplace?

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“Historically, the heaviest mass inhalational exposures to chlorine resulted from World War I gassing. Currently potential human exposure to chlorine inhalation occurs in a variety of settings in the workplace”. Today’s discussion is the indoor swimming pool!

You know that pungent “chlorine” smell that hits you in the face when you walk into the pool area, it also gets stuck to your skin/hair and swimmers, the sudden shortness of breath, random cough, or maybe the red itchy or dry skin that develops into a rash or maybe that hair loss or those red stinging eyes and even those headaches you get?

Chances are you have experienced one or more of the above during or after swimming, but you shrug it off, just accepting it is all part of the job.

So, say you don’t shrug it off and instead you educate yourself by doing some research; sticking only to credible sources of information. You might come across the following:

“Chlorine species are highly reactive; tissue injury results from exposure to chlorine, hydrochloric acid, hypochlorous acid, or chloramines. Acute, high level exposure to chlorine gas in occupational or environmental settings results in a variety of doserelated lung effects ranging from respiratory mucus membrane irritation to pulmonary edema. Pulmonary function testing can reveal either obstructive or restrictive deficits immediately following exposure, with resolution over time in the majority of cases. However, some of those exposed may demonstrate long-term persistent obstructive or restrictive pulmonary deficits or increased nonspecific airway reactivity after high level exposure to chlorine gas”.

“As with all human and technological intervention, the use of chlorine-based products to disinfect swimming water may lead to a number of unwanted effects, in particular the presence of chlorine-containing compounds in the air. Consequently, chlorination may affect the respiratory health of either those who work as swimming attendants or instructors”.

But let’s say you are just a lifeguard and don’t even get in the water, but you still find yourself developing some health problems. You tell yourself ‘it can’t be the pool; I don’t get in the water’. Well think again!

Research shows whilst you absorb chemical by-products (mono-chloramine and dichloramines) dermally while in the water, you also inhale the gaseous forms of byproducts (tri-chloramines) known as nitrogen trichloride, when reacted with water. They are part of the chlorine by-product group called Trihalomethanes (THM’s).

“Swimming-pool asthma due to airborne nitrogen trichloride can occur in workers who do not enter the water because of this chloramine. The air above indoor swimming pools therefore needs to be assessed and managed as carefully as the water”.

According to Wikipedia, Nitrogen trichloride, trademarked as Agene, was at one time used to bleach flour, but this practice was banned in the United States in 1949 due to safety concerns.

Despite there is plenty of research having been conducted specifically on some health issues associated with swimming pool by-products and their results already published, there is still much more research to be done on other areas of health concerns, which it would seem is also the opinion of our fellow scientists:

“Although the issue of the chlorination of public water supplies has received considerable attention, mainly with regard to the presence of potentially carcinogenic or teratogenic chlorinated by-products, the respiratory hazards of chlorinated swimming water have been less well addressed. Thus, old and even more recent reports on indoor pollution do not deal with the air of chlorinated swimming pools, despite the generally obvious and readily noticeable irritant character of this type of environment”.

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

 

25/07/2019

Poor water quality, what potential illness awaits you in the pool?

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“I regularly encounter patients during my after-hours house visits that present with allergic reactions, viral and bacterial infections causing problems with the ears, throat, lungs, eyes, skin, and overall wellbeing. Many of these patients have reported participating in swimming activities both recreational and organised lessons in the last 48 hours of my consultation”. Dr Molly Gorman, NSW Australia.

Dr Gorman also noted that she had recently examined a mature woman that presented with severe lung malfunction, and after several examinations, it appeared that the damage to her lungs was what is typically seen by that of a long-term chain smoker. When the woman was questioned further it was identified that in fact she had never been a smoker but had been a swim instructor for the past 20 years in an indoor swimming facility.

When swimming in a pool with poor water quality the potential for infections and the types of illnesses that can be contracted are listed below:

Parasites

Cryptosporidium

Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, possibly leading to dehydration.

Millions of Cryptosporidium parasites can be released from an infected human or animal, according to the CDC.

According to Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Teknologi MARA, the reported prevalence of Cryptosporidium among patients with Gastroenteritis is 1% to 4% in Europe and North America and 1% to 37% in Africa, Asia, Australia, and South and Central America.

Giardia

This germ is found in the fecal matter of a person who has been infected by Giardia. It has a tough outer shell that allows it to survive for up to 45 minutes even in properly chlorinated pools. Giardia is a common cause of recreational water illness (disease caused by germs spread through pool water) in the United States and can cause prolonged diarrhoea (for 1–2 weeks). It can make anyone sick.

Giardia is spread by swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter containing Giardia.

Swallowing even a small amount of pool water that has been contaminated with the Giardia germ can make you sick.

During the past 2 decades, Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia sp. have been associated with increasing outbreaks of swimming-associated gastrointestinal illness in the United States;

Bacteria

Escherichia coli (E coli)

Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhoea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and Pneumonia, and other illnesses.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals.

The time between ingesting the STEC bacteria and feeling sick is called the “incubation period.” The incubation period is usually 3-4 days after the exposure, but may be as short as 1 day or as long as 10 days. The symptoms often begin slowly with mild belly pain or non-bloody diarrhoea that worsens over several days. HUS, if it occurs, develops an average 7 days after the first symptoms, when the diarrhoea is improving.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Pseudomonas aeruginosa accounts for many episodes of infections associated with attendance at swimming pools. The genus Pseudomonas includes free-living bacteria that are highly versatile and able to adapt to different environments and conditions. It is responsible for a series of diseases ranging from skin and eye infections in healthy individuals to serious life-threatening illnesses in burn, surgical, or immunocompromised subjects, often sustained by multi-drug resistant strains.

Folliculitus and ear infections which are caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This organism is responsible for skin (follicle) and mucous membrane infections and ear infections, particularly in kids, which tend to be difficult to treat. The organism proliferates very quickly in pools when the water temperature is greater than 26C and when disinfection levels are not maintained at all times. This organism also causes outbreaks in heated spa pools.

Due to its ability to form a biofilm on virtually all surfaces, Pseudomonas aeruginosa can survive in treated water with residual chlorine levels < 1 mg/L, in distilled water, and in disinfectant solutions, and it shows high resistance to mechanical cleaning processes.

Shigella

This is a type of Gastroenteritis (also known as ‘gastro’) caused by Shigella bacteria.

Only small numbers of Shigella bacteria are sufficient to cause an infection

Symptoms may include:

  • diarrhoea (sometimes with blood or mucus)
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • stomach cramps.

 

Viruses

Noroviruses

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) with diarrhoea, stomach pain and vomiting. Common names used for Gastroenteritis due to Norovirus are ‘gastric flu’ or ‘stomach flu’, ‘winter vomiting’ and ‘viral gastro’. Apr 9, 2018

Hepatitis A

Since this virus is primarily transmitted via fecal matter, this is the hepatitis strain that could become a problem in a swimming pool.

A self-limiting viral infection of the liver, hepatitis A typically does not cause chronic disease. While hepatitis A causes liver inflammation, most people’s livers can fully recover without any long-term damage. However, people already afflicted with chronic liver disease are more susceptible to serious illness as a result of hepatitis A infection. Since this disease is caused by a virus, it does not respond to antibiotics.

The most common symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
  • Low-grade fever and loss of appetite
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice and dark urine
  • Liver pain

 

Fungi

There are growing rates of people attending swimming pools for recreational, rehabilitative treatment or sport, especially in tropical area. Dermatophytosis, which is the most common fungal cutaneous infection, is a communicable disease mainly transmitted by human sources and swimming pools have high potential to transfer this infection.

Saprophytic fungi and yeast organisms have potential pathogenecity for Candidiasis, Otomycosis, Asthma and allergies (5914).

Although susceptible persons may be infected from different places it should be noted that pool environments contribute to the spread of these agents.

Written by John Morrison BSc

Additional Links

10/09/2018

How healthy is the air you’re breathing around the swimming pool?

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Who is at risk?

Whether you are participating in swimming or just poolside providing moral support, the quality of the air around you is just as important for your health as the quality of the water you swim in.

On top of the myriad of exposure symptoms swimmers can suffer following a visit to an indoor pool, long term exposure to poor air quality can also cause hypersensitivities. Even professional swimmers have been hospitalised in the past thanks to severe exposure symptoms.

Does the air around the swimming pool you visit smell strongly of Chlorine?

If you answered ‘yes’ it’s important to know that the odour is not pure Chlorine, but rather a form of Chloramine (waste products combined with Chlorine), a by-product of Chlorine, called Trihalomethanes (THM).  THM are not only dissolved in the water where they can be absorbed through the skin or ingested but are also present in gaseous state that can be inhaled.

Chloramine gas is heavier than air, which means the bulk of the THM settle right where they can cause the most problems for swimmers. The level of THM in the air significantly rises as swimmer activity in the pool increases due to the surface tension of the water being broken, releasing the THM. A research paper by the Institute of Hygiene at the University of Heidelberg concluded that only 1/3 of THM uptake was by the skin while the remainder was via the respiratory pathway. A fact sheet from The Department of Environmental Services also reported short and long term affects to the central nervous system, bladder, kidneys and liver following exposure to THM.

The following video link provides a great explanation on the dangers of Chloramines: Pool Safety – Chloramines

In light of the above, swimmers, onlooking parents, swim instructors, lifeguards and site operators are all exposed to the health risks associated with a swimming pool. There are a couple simple things swimmers can do to help lower the risk of Chloramines forming such as showering before swimming and utilising the restrooms however the solution to removing the health risks lies with the facility owner/s taking action. Most facilities cannot afford losing customers or acquiring a bad reputation just because of air quality issues that can be resolved by using adequate equipment and maintenance techniques.

The expert team at Healthyswim can certainly help educate your local facility on how to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for you and your family so why not suggest they contact us today – your health will be the ultimate beneficiary.

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

 

25/05/2018

Welcome to Healthyswim

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Hello and welcome to , an educational website dedicated to community health and water quality. Whether you’re a parent wanting to enrol your child in swimming lessons, a family looking for a healthy place to visit and cool off, someone who likes swimming at the local pool to keep fit or an owner/operator of a commercial swimming pool, you’ve come to the right place for information.

The team behind Healthyswim are passionate experts in water quality and believe that everyone has the right to swim in safe, healthy water. We trust our local facilities with our health however unfortunately many commercial swimming pools around the country do not consistently meet the water quality standards set by the Australian Health Department and we want to help!

Our aim with the Healthyswim website is to assist the general public to locate the healthiest pool in their area as well as assist swimming pool owners/operators to ‘get accredited’ and not just meet, but beat applicable health standards. Concerned members of the public can also anonymously nominate a swimming pool whose water quality they felt was poor. We will not name them on our website, we will simply contact them to ask how we can assist them to achieve the Healthyswim accreditation and improve their water quality for your health and enjoyment.

Improving community health and safety is our aim therefore we will happily promote swimming pools who have taken the initiative of installing adequate secondary sanitation regardless of whose system they are operating. To achieve Healthyswim accreditation and join the list of elite facilities on our website, continual water quality evidence must be provided. If you see the Healthyswim accreditation sign at your local swimming pool, you know your health is in great hands!

Keep an eye out for the Healthyswim accreditation sign at your local swimming pool.

07/12/2017

Choosing the right swim school/public pool

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Learning to swim is an extremely important skill, especially here in Australia where surf, sea and sand make up a huge part of our lifestyle. When choosing a suitable swim school/public pool most parents look for clean, safe and functional facilities, a good curriculum, staff credentials, class availability and pricing however often fail to consider the importance of water quality when making a decision.

We all have different priorities but I think it’s safe to say that every one of us finds the health of our family at the top of the list. With this in mind, let’s look at some reasons why you should also consider asking about the sanitation system in place and how facility management are active in their duty to meet health standards.

First and foremost, poorly maintained water can be hazardous to your childs health. Even a supportive parent cheering on the sidelines can be adversely affected with respiratory discomfort if adequate ventilation is not provided within indoor facilities. Does your child complain of red itchy eyes or dry skin following a trip to the pool? Do they have a strong ‘chlorine’ smell on their skin/bathers after swimming? This is not something you should ignore or accept as standard practice as it can be completely avoided. Sadly, not all public pools comply with regulated water standards and in a lot of cases just don’t have the adequate equipment to maintain those standards, especially those that have a high volume of bathers.

Primary Water Sanitation

It’s common knowledge that chemicals such as Chlorine are added to pool water to provide swimmers with protection against bacteria etc. The unfortunate nature of swimming pools however is that swimmers are a major source of pollutants (Ammonia from sweat and urine) which react with Chlorine to form chemical by-products known as Chloramines and Cyanogen Chloride (tear gas). Did you know that it is these Chloramines (not Chlorine) that are directly responsible for the distinct Chlorine odour as well as eye, nose, throat and lung irritations. Cyanogen Chloride adversely affects our lungs, central nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Basic primary sanitation systems don’t remove Chloramines/Cyanogen Chloride from the water and are also rendered useless against parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia which have become immune to Chlorine at standard pool operating levels.

Chloramines are dissolved in pool water, however, Chloramine gas (Trihalomethane) can be released into the air when water surface tension is broken resulting in the strong ‘chlorine’ odour in the air. Staff and swimmers who experience long term exposure may develop allergic sensitivities and will react to even low levels of Chloramines which may force them to avoid the water altogether. Showers prior to swimming are encouraged to help lower the amount of Ammonia entering the water and minimise Chloramine build up risk.

Not only is regular maintenance and water balancing important to avoid health issues, adequate ventilation is also critical in maintaining clean air and a healthy swimming environment.

What else is swimming with you?

In addition to Chloramines and Cyanogen Chloride, the following ‘unintentional release’ material is typically swimming with you in a public pool:

.14 grams of faecal matter per bather;

6 million skin cells per bather after 15 minutes;

Minimum 30mls of urine per bather;

1 litre of sweat per bather, per hour; and

Inorganic products such as sunscreen and body lotions/moisturisers.

When you add the urine that is intentionally released you can certainly see how hard sanitation systems have to work to maintain water quality.

So what are your options?

Look for a swim school/public pool that has invested in a suitable ‘secondary’ sanitation system – particularly Ozone. If you are fortunate enough to live near a swim school/public pool that has, here’s a short explanation of why you are lucky!

Ozone

Ozone (O3), also known as ‘activated oxygen’ is composed of three Oxygen atoms and is a naturally occurring oxidiser that protects our planet in the atmosphere. If you drink bottled water, odds are it has been purified by Ozone.

How does it work?

Following injection into the water Ozone will safely oxidise organic material, impurities, Chloramines, Cyanogen Chloride, bacteria and viruses. Ozone will not create an unsafe chemical residual as once it has oxidised pollutants (3500 times faster than Chlorine) it breaks down into simple Oxygen which leaves the water noticeably softer and crystal clear. Ozone is also remarkable in the fact that it will effectively destroy Chlorine resistant parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia which are known to cause severe gastric illness. At the very least, this means that you no longer need to worry about your family being exposed to high levels of Chlorine as when using Ozone, Chlorine levels can be dramatically reduced.

So if you are not 100% happy with the water at your local swim school/public pool, please feel free to let us know by nominating them on our website. We can definitely help them, and your families health will be the ultimate beneficiary.

Written by John Morrison BSc

07/12/2017

Chloramines – the hard truth

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Do you recall fond Summer memories when you get a whiff of Chlorine around a pool? Ever get off an elevator at a hotel and knew straight away that the pool was on that level? We all know that Chlorine is added to pool water as a disinfectant to protect our health but most of us don’t understand that the ‘Chlorine pool smell’ is not due to Chlorine, but to;

Chloramines (Combined Chlorine)

Chloramines are chemical by-products formed when Chlorine reacts with organic substances such as sweat or inorganic substances such as makeup and deodorant and can build up in pool water when improperly treated. These Chloramines come in various chemical forms called Monochloramine, Dichloramine and Trichloramine. Trichloramine, in particular, is considered quite toxic and exists 100mm under the water surface, releasing into the atmosphere as a gas when the surface tension of the water is broken, directly where swimmers are breathing.

Not only are Chloramines poor disinfectants, they irritate mucous membranes and cause exposed swimmers to suffer with stinging red eyes and itchy skin. Respiratory and Asthma problems related to Chloramine exposure are also common amongst regular swimmers.

Cyanogen Chloride (Tear Gas)

Cyanogen Chloride is a chemical by-product formed when urine reacts with Chlorine to form Cyanogen Chloride (CNCL – an unstable chemical structure). Cyanogen Chloride decomposes slowly with heat (heated water) to form Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydrogen Chloride and Nitrogen Oxide fumes. These fumes are highly toxic and corrosive and can be harmful to our lungs, heart, central nervous system and other organs if inhaled. These nitrogen based by-products have a greater tendency to cause cellular damage and Cancer. The Cyanide component is that found in CS gas (tear gas), used for riot control.

Solutions?

To limit the formation of Chloramines/Cyanogen Chloride, swimmers should always use the toilet and shower before entering the water to decrease the amount of contaminants entering the pool. This is particularly an issue for swim schools who have large numbers of infant swimmers that are not toilet trained.

Legally, to protect the health and safety of swimmers, combined Chlorine levels (Chloramines) must not exceed 1ppm in any public swimming pool or spa. If levels rise higher than this, Chloramines must be removed by adding very high amounts (up to 10x normal operating level) of Chlorine or by using Ozone, UV or a combination of the two technologies (Advanced Oxidation Process). When combining Ozone and UV the end result is Hydroxyl Free Radicals, one of the most reactive agents known to chemistry. These reactive species can oxidise virtually any compound found in water, maximising disinfection whilst killing all types of bacteria, fungi, virus and Chlorine resistant parasites such as Cryptosporidium. More importantly, these AOP systems will dramatically lower combined Chlorine levels to keep water well below health regulation limits.

Use your senses/common sense

Facility managers are responsible for maintaining adequate pool chemistry however you can also use your senses/common sense to decide for yourself if the pool is safe to swim in:

Is there a strong Chlorine odour? Does it irritate your sinuses or cause you to cough?

Does the water look clear or cloudy?

Do the pool surfaces feel slimy?

Always avoid getting water in your mouth and don’t swallow if you do!

Always shower before entering the pool to reduce the amount of contaminants that may enter with you.

Encourage kids to take regular bathroom breaks and do not go swimming if you have been ill or have Diarrhoea.

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

07/12/2017
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