How dangerous is chlorine for children in the swimming pool?

How dangerous is chlorine for children in the swimming pool?

Swimming is a sport that is not only fun for children but can also promote health. However, studies repeatedly show that the chlorine contained in indoor swimming pools could harm health, especially children. Can chlorine in water increase the risk of developing asthma and allergies?

Chlorine as a risk for asthmatics?

Up to now, experts have recommended swimming as the ideal sport for children with asthma since regular swimming can increase lung volume and improve breathing. As early as 2001, however, a Belgian study showed results that alarmed many parents. A connection between chlorine in the water and the tendency to develop asthma or allergies has been identified.

The media have recently picked this topic up in the healthcare sector. The discussion is to what extent and from what quantity chlorine in the water can pose a health risk for small children and children.


Chlorine for disinfection in the swimming pool

It’s no secret that chlorine is pure chemistry. For parents in particular, the question quickly arises as to why adding chlorine to the water is necessary, even though it may pose a health risk. It is essential to know that germs can form and spread quickly wherever there are many people. A warm, humid climate, such as that found in indoor swimming pools, is ideal for developing germs. For this reason, the water in the swimming pool must be clean and regularly disinfected.

This is where the favourable properties of chlorine come into play. Because as soon as chlorine mixes with water, it can combine with bacteria and other organic substances already in the water. Chlorine thus renders the bacteria harmless and kills any pathogens present. This is very practical and useful because large amounts of dirt can contaminate the water, especially in a public swimming pool where there are many people. For this reason, municipal swimming pools in Germany are even obliged to add specific amounts of chlorine to the water. In addition, the DIN 19643 standard stipulates a limit of one milligram per litre of water, which must not be exceeded.

However, experts point out that chlorine, as soon as it combines with organic substances such as sweat, urine or tiny hairs, forms combined chlorine, so-called chloramines. This includes the irritant trichloramine, caused by a reaction between chlorine and urine. The chloramines can attack the mucous membranes and get into the respiratory tract and the eyes – the latter often leads to children coming home with red eyes after swimming.

Since the lungs of tiny children under the age of 3 are still developing, they can be susceptible. The chlorine can cause bronchitis in children, leading to an increased risk of respiratory disease. So, if there is a strong smell of chlorine in the indoor pool, it is not the chlorine itself causing the extreme smell, but the chloramines. Incidentally, a strong chlorine smell always indicates too many chloramines in the air!

Healthy swimming through adequate ventilation

For these reasons, good and sufficient ventilation in the indoor pool is essential. If children get a strong urge to cough while in the pool or even complain about a sudden burning sensation in their throat, this can be a clear sign of chloramine irritation. In this case, specialists advise you to leave the pool and alert the lifeguard. Because as soon as the water is refreshed, the air is more unmistakable again. Some pools have now opted for alternatives to chlorine, but these are more expensive, so most municipal pools will continue to use chlorine for cleaning at this time.

Conclusion: Swimming is a sport to promote health and well-being. In indoor swimming pools in particular, however, it is essential that they are well-ventilated and that the formation of chloramines is kept as low as possible.

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