Swimming can be great exercise and a lot of fun, not to mention an exciting sport at the Olympics. But the chlorine used in most pools can have some negative side effects, not the least of which is reliance on toxic (and finicky) chemicals.
Chlorine’s damaging effects on hair are well known, but few people realize that a number of studies have linked inhalation of the chemical by swimmers to increased asthma rates (in fact a new Irish study published this April reported a significant link between the number of years a boy had been swimming and the likelihood of the child being wheezy in the past year.) A Norwegian study also documented an increased risk of wheezing among children who swim in pools before 6 months of age. Further, in an unpleasant reaction, pee and sweat in water can react with chlorine to form toxic breakdown products known as chloramines.
For health, environmental and aesthetic reasons, a lot of people have expressed interest in alternatives to chlorine pools, and luckily there are more and more options to get wet without smelling like cleaning products. A company called TechnoPure offers alternative pool systems that treat water by pumping it through a chamber containing coated titanium plates and copper and zinc ions. The units cost a relatively affordable $5,500. DEL Ozone makes ozone injectors that can reduce the need for chlorine up to 90% — there’s been one installed at the White House for years! Some systems rely on a combination of ozone and copper and silver ions, while others are saline, though saltwater pools result in the formation of chlorine in the water.
One elegant, eco-friendly solution that has had enthusiastic supporters in Europe for decades is the so-called natural swimming pool, which is slowly beginning to gain buzz in the U.S. Natural swimming pools, often called swimming ponds across the Atlantic, can be beautiful oases of greenery and sustainability, as well as safe, fun places to take a dip.
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