Is indoor swimming a health hazard?

No swimmer and their fans wants to think about it, but it is a reality for anyone who spends time in a indoor aquatic centres: chemicals in the pool and in the air. Indoor pools are convenient, but without proper maintenance, they can become incredibly dangerous for swimmers and fans alike. The dangerous chemicals that treat the pools can wreak havoc on lungs, skin, and eyes, too. Some swimmers have actually been hospitalised for overexposure to the dangerous chemicals.


Unfortunately, not much has been done to regulate the air quality and the water quality in indoor aquatic centres. And, as of yet, no one has conducted any long-term studies on swimmers to see how their chemical exposure affects them as they age. This is problematic, especially considering that swimmers need to rely on healthy air and water in order to breathe and perform at their best.


Many people do point to chlorine as a culprit for harsh water and air, but it is not alone. One of the biggest troubles comes from a chemical called a chloramine. These are created with molecules from other sources react with chlorine. One of the biggest problems for swimmers is actually urea and how it reacts with chlorine. And, urea comes from urine. Yup…peeing in the pool is one of the biggest problems with water and air quality.


So, these chloramine become agitated then they irritate the skin and the lungs. People in indoor aquatic centres begin to cough. These pesky little chloramines sit right above the water surface where they are the most concentrated. This is why so many swimmers inhale them and suffer from the consequences. When too much chlorine is put in the pool, the chloramines increase, too.


Sadly, this problem with chloramines cannot be remedied with a fan or an open door. The little molecules stay right where they are. In the colder months, opening the doors makes the matter worse. The cold air does not do anything with the chloramines; but, it can create a cool looking cloud over the pool as the air settles.


Interestingly, there are two easy solutions for this problem. The first is that people should stop peeing in the pool. The second is that swimmers should shower prior to swimming. This removes other oils and issues that can create chloramines. Sweat and oils from the body increase the number of chloramines. The big problem for those who manage an indoor aquatic centre is that they do not know how to enforce this issue. If people would simply do these two things, pools and the air quality inside of the space would improve and swimming organizations would not have to pay anything extra.


There is another solution, but it is more expensive. An ultra-violet filter system is one of the best tools for destroying all of the harmful molecules that get into swimming pools. Instead of running pool water through the traditional filtration systems, the UV filter will destroy viruses, chloramines, and other harmful substances that end up in the water. To filter water with a UV system, a tube with ultraviolet light is added to the filter. While this is a great system to use, the big problem comes with the fact that it takes a long time to filter all of the water. Big pools require at least six hours of filtration time to zap all of the water. This is not fast enough – especially in pools that are busy with meets. During meets or busy practices, the buildup of chloramines can be overwhelming.


Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control has gotten involved in the issue. The CDC does recommend adding fresh air to indoor aquatic centres. It also recommends using air systems that force the tainted air out of the facilities. Without good air circulation, problems will continue.


As swimming continues to increase in popularity, the troubles with air and water quality will also increase, unless something is done. Major studies need to take place to protect the present and future of athletes who spend their time in the pool. In some cases, the health issues have become so serious that swimmers are known to cough so hard that they begin vomiting.