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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”.

References:

Rupali Das, Paul D. Blanc: Chlorine Gas exposure and the lung: A review. May 1, 1993
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/074823379300900304

B. Nemery, P.H.M Hoet, D. Nowak: Indoor swimming pools, water chlorination and respiratory health. 2012. European Respiratory Journal.
https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/19/5/790

K.M. Thicket, J.S. McCoach, J.M. Gerber, S. Sadhra, P.S. Burge: Occupational asthma caused by chloramines in indoor swimming-pool air. 2012. European Respiratory Journal.
https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/19/5/827.short

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.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21816450

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15729838

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2974689/

https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/ard/documents/ard-ehp-13.pdf

https://academic.oup.com/annweh/article/59/8/1074/2196152

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15097021

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1438463905703230

https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/indoor-pool-air-quality-addressing-one-of-the-nations-most-underrated-issues/

 

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.

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.

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750039.html

http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q2/swimming-pool-urine-combines-with-chlorine-to-pose-health-risks.html

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es400273w?journalCode=esthag#/doi/abs/10.1021/es400273w?journalCode=esthag

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.researchgate.net/publication/8153240_Stability_of_Cyanogen_Chloride_in_the_Presence_of_Free_Chlorine_and_Monochloramine/amp#ampshare=https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8153240_Stability_of_Cyanogen_Chloride_in_the_Presence_of_Free_Chlorine_and_Monochloramine

07/12/2017
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