As temperatures rise, what better way to beat the heat than to dip into a pool, whether it’s in your own backyard or at a local community center. Keeping that pool sparkling clean and properly maintained, however, is critical for limiting your family’s exposure to recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and less than desirable irritants.
Chemistry 101 teaches pool owners, like yourself, that chlorine is needed to ensure sanitary water. Not only is chlorine incredibly effective at killing bacteria, it also protects against algae growth, which helps promote crystal blue swimming water. Improper chlorine concentrations are cause for concern though.
Under-chlorinating your pool may cause skin and eye irritation, dry skin and hair or in extremely rare cases, trigger an asthma attack. You should never swim in a pool when chlorine concentrations are out of the expert recommended range (between 1.0 and 3.0 parts per million (ppm)).
Let’s dive into what that strong chemical pool smell really is …
What’s Really Causing that Smell?
Chlorine is added to the water to prevent the spread of germs. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it’s still susceptible to “what comes out of or washes off swimmers’ bodies.” Dirt, sweat, personal care products, and yes even bodily fluids can neutralize the performance of chlorine and create chloramines (aka chemical irritants).
Chloramines are chemical compounds that, when blended with chlorine, produce a strong chemical pool smell. Chloramines in the water often turn into gas in the surrounding air. A chemical pool smell is subsequently emitted. You may be familiar with this smell, since 51 percent of Americans report using a swimming pool as a communal bathtub, according to a recent study presented by the Water Quality & Health Council.
The report states that people are using the pool as an alternative to showering or rinsing off after exercising or yardwork, even though 64 percent of the respondents admitted to knowing that chlorine has its shortcomings. “Rinsing off for just one-minute removes most of the dirt, sweat, or anything else on your body, said Dr. Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.
Breathing or swimming in water contaminated with chloramines can lead to:
- Nasal irritation, coughing, and wheezing
- Possible triggered asthma attacks
- Skin irritation and rashes
- Red and itchy eyes
- Dry hair
Chloramine Protection Tips
Although you can’t control what other people do, there are certainly things you can do to ensure your safety and that of your family’s, such as using the restroom and rinsing off in the shower before getting into the water. You should also make sure your pool is properly disinfected and thoroughly cleaned by frequently skimming the surface, emptying skimmer baskets, and running your automatic pool cleaner. If swimming in a public pool, remember that a healthy, sanitary pool is one that is odorless.
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