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Thursday 26 March 2020
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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

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

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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