If you don’t yet have your own backyard swimming pool, we’ll give you fair warning: after reading this post, you’ll probably be even more convinced that you should get one. And if you already have one, then you’ll feel even better about it — and be better equipped to keep your family and friends from contracting RWIs from swimming in your pool. We’ll start by differentiating between chlorine and chloramines. It’s a pretty important distinction, after all.
What Chlorine Is & What It Does
If you have your own swimming pool (or if you’ve been around swimming pools at all), you know that chlorine is a chemical used to treat pool water and keep germs from running rampant in it. Contaminants that frequently enter swimming pools include skin and hair products as well as dead skin cells, dirt, and sweat. And even if no one urinates or defecates — we hate to be the ones to have to tell you this — a measure of residual urine and fecal matter ends up finding its way into your pool, carried in by human (or animal) skin. All those substances end up combining with the chlorine — which is why chlorine is there, of course. But what you may not realize is that once the chlorine has done its job by combining with contaminants, it is no longer available to kill any other germs.
What Chloramines Are & What They Do
Even if you know what chlorine is, you may have never heard of chloramines. When chlorine combines with the various substances that otherwise contaminate your swimming pool, they also form chloramines. These chemical compounds formed by the combination of nitrogen-containing compounds and chlorine are what cause irritation to the skin and the respiratory system. Maybe you thought it was simply the chlorine that did that, but if so, you were mistaken; it’s actually the chloramines.
That odor most people associate with chlorine is actually a sign of chloramines, which evaporate. (This is precisely why good ventilation is important for indoor pool rooms, by the way.) So a pool with well-balanced chemicals will not have that strong chemical odor caused by chloramines.
In addition to the irritating smell, chloramines are associated with a variety of health risks. For one thing, chloramines can irritate the skin of those in the pool — along with stinging and redness of the eyes. Both those in and around the pool can also experience respiratory trouble, including nasal irritation, coughing, and wheezing; those who have asthma or other existing respiratory problems are especially susceptible. And the more chloramines present, the greater the severity of the symptoms.
If you’re a pool owner and want to know how to reduce the amount of chloramines causing trouble for you and your swimming pool participants, check out our next post.
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