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Chlorine in indoor swimming pools: Do you care?

212647451_4b6936861a_m_2 We've chatted before about where to teach the kids to swim.  It's hard enough to find a pool that is convenient and in your budget that offers the kind of classes you like on the right day at the right time, you know?   

But add to that the fact that chlorinated indoor pools can have adverse health effects, and it seems near impossible!  I've heard there are some indoor saline pools in town with children's lessons, but am not sure of their safety, either.  How did you go about making this decision?  Does the possibility that indoor chlorinated pools might cause asthma give you pause, or not?  I'll confess that it gives me pause - after 5 years hauling the kids to chlorinated indoor pools!!  Here's an excerpt from the Enviroblog post I read:

"A 'state of the science' report presented by researchers from premier academic institutions and government regulatory agencies from the U.S., Canada, and Europe summarized findings of 18 different studies that all noted an association between attendance at chlorinated indoor pools and increasing frequencies of allergic disease and asthma.

Similar health concerns are noted for Olympic swimmers, pool workers, and lifeguards who spend a lot of time by the poolside. Moreover, the increased use of swimming pools by the very young has increased their exposure to potential respiratory irritants within the indoor swimming pool environment."

If you are concerned, there are some tips in this post to assess pool health and minimize exposure.  What does Portland Parks & Rec use? 


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I know this doesn't directly relate to children's exposure while swimming, but I recently joined a 24-hr-fitness location and after swimming in the pool once, was astounded at the amount of skin and eye irritation I had. The little bit of hair that snuck out from under my cap was straw-like. My 3-yr-old and I noted the intense chlorine smell from the moment we opened the exterior door to the club ("smells like a POOL in here") and I even worried about her breathing those fumes while in the kid-care. The club claimed they didn't ADD chlorine to the pool but there was "natural" chlorine present because it was a salt-water pool. (Salt: NaCl: breaks down via a CHLORINE GENERATOR to create Chlorine).

Basically, salt water pools DO contain chlorine. It's just a more convenient system because they pool operators don't have to handle or store liquid chlorine products.


I don't know what Portland Parks and Rec uses but my daughter and I have been swimming MANY times in the rec center pools without any noticeable irritation or overwhelming chlorine odor.

I'm concerned about my own health and the chlorine exposure and am having a tough time balancing that with my need to get some exercise by a method that works well for me (swimming).

I don't know about *causing* asthma, but we've never done swimming lessons because the chemicals trigger asthma flares in our family. It's a bummer.

I am personally not worried about my children going swimming 2x/week for 30 minutes. This is not nearly the amount of time olympic swimmers and lifeguards spend around the swimming pool. Chlorinated water *does* sometimes cause my daughter to get eczema, but not if she showers afterwards and gets plenty of lotion after swimming. And, by the way, the research cited above noted that their findings were inconclusive.

As a former competitive swimmer for 13+ years, I am not AT ALL worried about this.

I spent 13 years of my life smelling like chlorine all year long. At times, I swam 10 workouts per week that were about 2 hours long each. So I spent 20 hours IN the pool per week, along with more time on the deck. Lots more time.

I have no adverse health affects and frankly don't think it's a problem. Yep my hair was dry and so was my skin, but what I gained by being a swimmer was so amazing, that it was worth whatever chlorine I happened to ingest.

Heck, the drinking water in portland smells like chlorine to me.

I say go enjoy the pool and don't worry about it!!! Look at Michael Phelps...he's not suffering from some kind of chlorine disease and he's in it all day long!

I agree with Laura. I spent several years swimming 11 months of the year, 6 days a week, at least 2 hours a day. I was tired, in the best shape of my life, fast in the water, and had crunchy hair. Other than mistakes with the application of the pool chemicals (when we stayed out of the water) I don't recall a single discussion of adverse health effects. Ever.

That being said my Dad smoked in the house and car during those years - nobody talked about that either!

Gotta run... off to the pool!

I too spent many hours for many years competitive swimming, life-guarding, and teaching swimming. It was easily the best thing I did growing up. I suffer no health problems unless aside from a life-long habit of exercise and love of water sports. My best friend on my swim team was actually told by her doctor to swim for her asthma, and it helped her tremendously.

I think there are far scarier things that we breathe unknowingly and are exposed to on a more regular basis. We are already given so many scare tactics using studies and statistics on sensitive issues (allergies, autism, etc); I resent that this post may discourage someone from introducing their child to something as healthy as swimming. Please, scare us about real health issue like obesity or NOT exercising.

I don't want to come off as sarcastic or offensive, but this sort of reminds me of the group of people who claim it's safer to drive because when you bike/walk you breathe in too much pollution in the air. In both cases, I believe the benefits of activity and exercise outweigh the risk. My husband and son ride their bikes to Columbia pool most Saturdays, swim for an hour and bike home. Yes, the towels and swimsuits completely stink of chlorine when I pull them out of the backpacks and I personally have always been a bit grossed out by indoor swimming pools but they love it, I'm not gonna rain on that parade.

Sorry that you resent the post! Intent is not to scare anyone, just sharing some info I came across that interested me as I've worried about this a little over the years. Feel free to not worry about it, and let others do the same.

I'd agree that there are larger public health issues; but that doesn't mean the lesser ones s/be in hiding, or that those of us who might find this a concern can't discuss it for fear of scaring others away from swimming.

I don't want to rain on my kids' parade either, and they love the indoor pool, too, I'm simply seeking the safest place to do it. Wondering where the problem is in that?
Do I have to accept the status quo just to make my kids happy??

The Tualitan hills parks & rec district has converted some of their swimming pools to UV light instead of using chlorine. I asked about it and they do use a little chlorine but not nearly as much as a traditional pool. I have noticed a difference in our skin and hair,much less stinky!

LTF, I don't find any problem with the post at all and I am always happy to have more information rather than less as I believe that knowledge is power. As with everything posted here, I think we should take what's helpful to us and use it and leave the rest. I was simply commenting that this is not something that concerns us because I think the benefits of exercise outweigh the possible risk. In our situation, Columbia pool is within biking distance from our house and as we try to walk/bike more and drive less, it's the pool we'll continue to frequent. If there was a safer option nearby I'd definitely choose it, probably just as much for the stink factor as for the health issue. But it doesnt make sense in our family to drive 20 minutes across town when we could bike it in 5.

This was a huge AH-HA moment for me. My high school daughter has been a competitive swimmer for ten years-six of those years on year round teams. About six years ago she developed exercise induced asthma and began using an inhaler at daily practices. However, when she stopped swimming year round her use of the inhaler stopped. Okay, you might say this is because she stopped exercising intensely, but that isn't true. She played boys football (very intense, grueling practices of the same duration), was on a rowing team (doesn't get much more intense than that!), and was on track and field. I do think the chlorine is the culprit when combined with working out for SOME people. Over the years I've read about a lot of swimmers with asthma.

My daughter never uses her inhaler outside of a swim workout and she has an amazing lung capacity. So, yeah, chlorine is worrisome, but I don't think it is a huge risk factor. Heck, we pour it in our inground backyard pool and play in it all summer long.

I have wondered these same questions and I loved swimming while prego, but am unsure about taking my 1 1/2 yr. old. I also work with a man who was in charge of the Parks and Rec. pools in Pdx for several yrs. and he has always said his kids will never swim in them. He doesn't say why, which is the bummer of this, but he's a level person and I've always wondered about it.

Call me crazy, but I kind of appreciate chlorine in the water where we swim at Swimbabes, especially when a kid barfs or poops in the pool!

My daughter and her friends swim at a pool that is treated by the same methods as the 24 Hour Fitness Pools are treated (salt water?), and at another pool that is chlorinated.

When I have three kids in my car who are still wet from the salt water pool, I always have to roll my windows down because the chemical stench is overwhelming, to the point my eyes sting. Swimsuits worn at that pool break down (lose color and elasticity) at an alarming rate--and we're talking about the $70 racing suits, not something picked up for $15 at Old Navy. The kids itch, and the one girl who has does have an inhaler ONLY has to use it at that pool. Her exercise-induced asthma seems to only rear its head at the "safer" pool.

The chlorinated pool? Minimal swimsuit breakdown, kids don't stink as badly, no itchies, no inhaler use.

I am not saying that I'd soak my kid in chlorine 24/7, but the "safer" alternative seems to be just the opposite.

Clorine sets off my asthma-- even in the outdoor pools.

Did you read the recent study about tylenol and asthma? I read about it on msnbc.com so you could find the info there. Frankly I think its a bigger concern unless you do year round swimming lessons.

I swam all the time as a kid in a clorinated pool, starting at 6 month sold and was on a swim team in high school, and my son and I swim about once a week and have been since he was quite small. So far nothing to report. I survived to my ripe age and he has had no side effects from swimming at the local pool.

I think this is yet another thing the "media" is stirring up becasue they don't have valuable news to report on. Seriously people need to use common sense! Calm down it will be okay, I am much more worried about my two year old drowing if we are talking about pool concerns (not that he is in the water alone, but its a real issue to think about when addressing pool safety)

I am a 3 month new member at 24 fitness in sunrise fl.- swimming 30-40 minutes a day 3-4 days a week - brittle hair - I started wearing cap - then last week arms and legs itching _eyebrows burned to a minimal level( it seemed ) I called and complained -
they are suppoaedely working on the chemical stuff

I'm a little alarmed by the tone of some of the comments above ("calm down," for instance). UrbanMamas has historically had a very nice sense of camaraderie, which is one of the reasons we all love to come here, right? I enjoy hearing about different people's concerns or lack of concern and their reasons. There's no need to be abrasive.

All the same, for many people the another benefits of salt water swimming pools make a powerful case. For example, salt water tends to be far softer and thus less drying on the skin than chlorinated water. PH balance isn't as important to monitor. Rinsing your hair and swimming costumes to avoid discoloration becomes less important. For a lot of, saying goodbye to stinging eyes and running noses from the harsh chemical fumes of chlorinated water is cause enough to install a salt chlorinator.


It's true that saltwater pool still needs chlorine for sanitation; these pools have to use pool chlorine generator to turn salt into chlorine. However, compared with chlorinated pool, salt water pool doesn't have that chlorine smell and the pool water doesn't irritate skin, eyes, and hair.

I am agree with you . I am also used to swimming in pools. I was tired, in the best shape of my life and fast in the water, and had crunchy hair. Other than mistakes with the application of the pool chemicals when we stayed out of the water .I like you blog so much because it is about our health.Thanks……….

salt chlorinator

Having a Swimming pool in home is a good thing because it can give your home a trendy look as the pool is in front, back or in the middle of the home. But It's necessary to keep in mind the service of the Pool. Regular checking of the pool parts as well as the cleaning the water with chlorine so that the water will be healthy for the swimming.

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