Disinfection byproducts in pools

 
By John Pastor • Published: July 22nd, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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People love to jump into swimming pools to get a little relief from the heat.

Contrast that with a different way people relieve themselves, which involves modern plumbing and closed doors. But what happens when the public pool becomes a source of relief for the kidneys as well as the heat?

In the movies, peeing in the pool is always good for a few laughs. And even at the pool, where the honor system prohibits bladder-voiding, the thought of an occasional violation is unpleasant … but it doesn’t seem that serious.

That’s because chlorine and other chemicals are in the water to stand guard against germs and disease-causing microbes.

But germs may not be the only threat … and chlorine may not be as much of a safety net as you think.

Researchers with the American Chemical Society say when chlorine mixes with sweat and urine two tricky compounds result, namely, trichloramine (Try-clora-mean) and cyanogen (Sy-Ann-O-Gen) chloride.

Trichloramine is associated with respiratory problems, with cases of asthma documented among swimmers, especially in indoor pools.

Cyanogen affects the lungs, heart and central nervous system.

To better understand how the chemicals got in the water, the scientists mixed chlorine with uric acid, which is an ingredient of both sweat and urine.

Within an hour, both of the potentially dangerous chemicals formed. As for the source of the uric acid, the researchers figured that more than 90 percent of it in pools was from urine.

So much for the honor system.

The solution to safer water is simple … swimmers should try not to confuse swimming pools with bathrooms.

In the meantime, chemists are working on ways to remove or control the volatile chemicals that form in swimming pools through organic processes.

That would be a relief for everybody.