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An article popped into my newsfeed this morning saying there had been a chlorine leak in a swimming pool in Somerset. I wasn't entirely sure what the point of the news piece was - surely that's just highlighting the obvious?
In my (limited) experience of swimming pools, every one I have ever cannon-balled into has been jam-packed full of chlorine. In fact the permeating smell of the chemical is evocative of my happy childhood, spending Saturday afternoons at the town lido.
Why on Earth would chlorine in a pool cause any furore? Being curious, I typed 'chlorine' into Google and waited. Up it popped.
Chlorine, it turns out, is a powerful disinfectant capable of killing disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria, like e-coli, and viruses. And if used in gas form, as it first was during World War I, it can kill a human in minutes when inhaled. It is also renowned for its bleaching qualities, which would explain what has happened to my poor swimming costumes over the years.
The penny dropped.
And then I thought, if it's capable of killing pathogens, killing humans and destroying man made fibres, what on Earth is it doing to our bodies every time we expose our naked flesh to it?
With my first child on the way and a summer holiday booked for next year (in the sun, complete with swimming pool) I suddenly wanted to know a lot more about what I would potentially be exposing my daughter to, and much to my horror I found:
- Research has linked drinking chlorinated water to an increased cancer risk.
- Another study found that people who swam in a chlorinated pool for 40 minutes had increased biomarkers, related to cancer risk.
I started panicking, then remembered that if you type 'puppies' into Google, at some point someone will have linked them to cancer and certain death* (*not a fact, I'm just hazarding a guess). Also more research on health effects of swimming in chlorinated pools was inconclusive.
Yes, overexposure to the stuff dries your skin, can make your hair brittle and irritate your eyes. But there are ways to counter all of these things, because, and let's face it, swimming in a cool pool on a hot day is just heavenly and not something you want to be denying yourself, or your children:
1. Rinse off. Before you enter the pool rinse your skin. By hydrating it you will theoretically absorb less chlorinated water. Afterwards rinse off with soap.
2. Vitamin C. Ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C) neutralises chlorine. Swimmers who spend time in a chlorinated pool should take a minimum of 4000 mg of Vitamin C, ideally first thing, because Vitamin C doesn't stay in your system.
3. Probiotics. Chlorine kills bacteria, it's just what it does. If you ingest pool water it will affect the vital probiotics in your gut. By eating fermented foods or taking a probiotic daily, you can help restore your gut's natural balance.
4. Moisturise. Find a lotion with a high antioxidant concentration, something containing Vitamin C and/or E. The antioxidants will help neutralise the effects of the oxidising pool chemicals.