A refreshing day at the pool sometimes ends with red eyes, dry skin and hair, and a strong odor that lingers even after a shower. Although chlorine is often blamed for these effects, research has shown that the issue is not with the chlorine itself, but rather the elements it mixes with in the pool water. Swimmers carry with them a variety of body care products such as lotion, shampoo, perfume and hairspray. Then there are the little ones who inevitably have “accidents” while splashing around.
Interaction between these substances and chlorine forms volatile organic compounds that are not only irritating, but can be unhealthy to breathe. Outdoor pools don’t pose much of a problem because the compounds generally blow away in the wind, but indoor pools need proper ventilation. Dr. Andrew Chadeayne, a lawyer with a doctorate in chemistry, stated in a recent New York Times article on the topic that, “if you can smell the pool strongly, you’re not smelling the pool, you’re smelling those derivatives.”
Of course, the alternative—swimming without chemical additives such as chlorine and bromine—puts swimmers at much higher risk. Killing the germs and bacteria that would otherwise flourish in that environment is a definite necessity.
The bottom line is that in a well-maintained, well-ventilated pool, these symptoms really shouldn’t be much of an issue. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to follow the rules posted in most public swimming places: Rinse off before diving in, in order to remove as many of the products as possible from the surface of your skin and hair.
And some other words of wisdom might also be helpful: For Pete’s sake—don’t pee in the pool!