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New Studies Reinforce Need to Promote Proper Pool Maintenance and Swimming Behaviors

Brian McKenna (202) 249-6706
September 13, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 13, 2010) – On the heels of the Water Quality and Health Council’s summer-long campaign promoting proper swimming behaviors and pool maintenance, four new studies were published in Environmental Health Perspectives this week that examined chlorinated swimming pools and the potential effects of disinfection byproducts on human health.  Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are chemical compounds that are formed unintentionally when chlorine and other disinfectants used to protect swimmers react with organic matter, including perspiration and urine in water.
 
Initial media coverage of the reports has suggested swimming in pools may be linked to cancer and asthma—statements unsupported by current scientific evidence.
 
Judith Nordgren, Managing Director of the American Chemistry Council’s Chlorine Chemistry Division, issued the following statement in response to the studies:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls chlorine a vital part of the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses that can make swimmers sick. Chlorine has been used safely and effectively in pools and spas for decades precisely because it kills most germs within minutes.

“Reporting on the studies, some in the media jumped hastily to suggest alternatives to chlorination for disinfecting swimming pools that might impact public health adversely.  Unlike other disinfectants, chlorine provides a residual level that continues to disinfect long after it’s applied, helping to prevent cross-contamination among swimmers.  Chlorine is also easy to monitor, and levels can be adjusted based on pool conditions.

“Any science-based research that examines complex pool chemistry is a step forward and can help better manage chlorinated pools.  As the authors themselves state, these studies rely on small numbers of swimmers in two Barcelona swimming pools with high bromine levels in the source water.  Further research is needed to determine whether these results are applicable to swimming pools in the United States and other places where the bromine levels are lower.  Nevertheless, we agree with these authors that ‘people need to work harder to reduce everyone’s exposure’ to disinfection byproducts.

“Ultimately, healthy pools are a shared responsibility.  The CDC encourages swimmers to play a key role in keeping pools healthy by showering before swimming and refraining from peeing in the pool.  ACC’s Chlorine Chemistry Division supports the Water Quality and Health Council’s efforts to promote proper pool maintenance and healthy swimming behaviors.”

For more information, visit www.healthypools.org.

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