The garden hose might be a safer option to cool off with than your swimming pool this summer. That clean water may not be as clean as you think, according to new research.
A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology revealed that disinfectants used to keep pools clean can create hazardous disinfection byproducts (DBPs) when mixed with sweat, urine, and beauty products.
Scientists at the University of South Carolina tested some of these byproducts and found they caused genetic damage to cells. Other findings linked regular pool usage to bladder cancer and respiratory issues.
These reports are true for all hot tubs, public pools, and private pools — but researchers are most concerned with indoor pools and hot tubs, because there is less ventilation.
That strong, chlorine-like smell you inhale around indoor swimming areas is not actually chlorine. It’s trichloramine — a DBP — which is a dangerous combination of chlorine and urine. The chemical easily becomes airborne and is a known respiratory irritant, sparking the risk of colds and asthma complications.
“I wouldn’t advise people to stay away from pools, but everything in moderation,” said study co-author Susan Richardson, who’s part of the university’s department of chemistry and biochemistry.
A Florida public official, from the state with the second largest number of swimming pools in the country, said reducing waterborne illness is a bigger concern than DBPs, and public pools are safe when the necessary steps are taken.
Still, Richardson and her colleagues tested water samples from public and private pools and hot tubs and discovered more than 100 DBPs — some of which are mutagenic, or known to damage and mutate cells.
The researchers found that on average, tap water was actually cleaner than disinfected pool water samples.
That garden hose sounds pretty refreshing.
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