Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes the airways of the lungs to tighten and swell. These include: swelling of the lining, tightening of the muscle, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. According to NIH (National Institute of Health), Asthma ranks among the most common chronic conditions in the United States, affecting an estimated 14.9 million persons in 1995 and causing over 1.5 million emergency department visits, about 500,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,500 deaths.
Last time I wrote about warning signs of asthma and how to gain control over child’s asthma. Recently I came across a Belgian study which says that swimming in chlorinated pools may increase the risk of getting asthma, especially in children, along with respiratory allergies like hay fever. Let us take a look at the study and its findings.
Chlorine is the chemical most often used to keep swimming pools and Jacuzzis free of bacteria that can be hazardous to humans. Chlorine kills bacteria though a fairly simple chemical reaction. The chlorine solution you pour into the water breaks down into many different chemicals, including hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and hypochlorite ion (OCl–). Both kill microorganisms and bacteria by attacking the lipids in the cell walls and destroying the enzymes and structures inside the cell, rendering them oxidized and harmless.
The study that was conducted at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, revealed that the teenagers who spent more than 100 hours swimming in chlorinated pools, either indoors or outdoors, had more than eight times the risk of having asthma. Dr. Alfred Bernard, Technology and Research Director, said that “The impact of these chemicals on the respiratory health of children and adolescents appears to be much more important — at least by a factor of five — than that associated with secondhand smoke“.
What are more details around the study?
The study was conducted on 847 Belgian teenagers that were aged 13 to 18. 733 teenagers swam in chlorinated swimming pools for varying amount of time against 114 teenagers who swam in pools that were sanitized with a mix of copper and silver. Main results from the study include:
- Teens that swam more than 1,000 hours in chlorinated pools were two to three times more susceptible for allergic rhinitis.
- Teens who swam in chlorinated pools for between 100-500 hours, six percent had current asthma, compared with only 1.8 percent, of those who had spent less than 100 hours in chlorinated pools.
- Also, the chances of asthma increased with exposure time to chlorinated water, such as 500 -1000 hrs of exposure to chlorinated 6.4% of teens exhibited asthma, whereas for more than 100 hours numbers rose to 11.9%.
class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify; line-height: 150%; margin: 0in 0in 0pt; color: black; mso-list: l0 level1 lfo1; mso-margin-top-alt: auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt: auto; tab-stops: list .5in;">Teens who swan in chlorinated water for more than 100 hours were three to six times more liable to suffer from hay fever.
The risk of asthma and allergy was not influenced by swimming in copper-silver sanitized pools and children without allergic tendencies were not at increased risk of developing allergies.
What is the reason for increase in asthma due to chlorinated water?
Researchers do not have a clear cause for their observation. One of the leading theories include changes cause in the airway due to the chlorine based chemicals in water or in the air over the swimming pool, which promotes development of allergic diseases. Dr. Bernard further stated that “It is probably not by chance that countries with the highest prevalence of asthma and respiratory allergies are also those where swimming pools are the most popular,” said Bernard.
Swimming is a very good exercise. You must be encouraged by success of Michael Phelps and keen to see your kid zip through swimming pool. The Belgian study cautions that we must limit the exposure to chlorinated water to teens and opt of pools that are sanitized by much milder chemical than chorine based compounds.