Toxic Swimming Pools: It’s hard to imagine a summer without cooling off in a swimming pool, but the risks don’t outweigh the benefits for many people. Whether you’re an avid swimmer or haven’t entered a pool in ages to avoid toxicity, this guide will help you spend time in the water while mitigating the toxic burden.
What’s In Your Swimming Pool?
Although swimming pools are a fantastic source of pleasure and exercise, the chemicals lurking in the water may generate health problems in the long run. Awareness of these chemicals and their potential impact on your body is vital when making informed decisions about your health and life.
Swimming pools are typically treated with chemicals to keep them “clean,” but like municipal tap water, the agents used to kill bacteria in the water can also kill the living bacteria in the various microbiomes of your living body1. Toxic Swimming Pools: Common chemicals found in swimming pools include: 2-4
- Chlorine: Chlorination is the most common method for disinfecting swimming pool water, which yields many toxic compounds called disinfection by-products (DBPs).
- Shock: Shocking a pool is an act of “unbinding” or oxidizing the inactive chlorine (chloramines). Shocking is done with increased dosages of chlorine or MPS (sodium monopersulfate) non-chlorine shock. When added to the pool, whatever chemical is used starts a process called superchlorination. Typically, shock is used about once a week or every two weeks, depending on pool usage.
- Algaecide: After the pool has been shocked, algaecide is added to keep the algae from returning. This product is often made of copper.
- Bromine: Bromine is an alternative chemical used to chlorine in the presence of warmer water, like hot tubs. Bromine is more effective than chlorine at killing bacteria in warmer environments due to the higher pH level.
- Cyanuric acid: Cyanuric acid is like sunscreen for chlorine, which slows down the natural process that the UV light from the sun has on decomposing chlorine. Essentially it slows the process down by stabilizing, or protecting, the chlorine.
- Calcium Chloride: Swimming pools require a minimum level of calcium hardness; otherwise, these molecules seek minerals elsewhere and will begin to degrade the tile and metals that make up the pool’s structure. Calcium chloride increases the calcium hardness in the water.
- Calficiers: These substances are polymers that help coagulate particles in the water by trapping particles in the filter. Clarifiers can be made of several different chemicals, including ammonium chloride.
- Flocculents: Similar to calcifiers, these substances attract and bind particles together, sinking the particles to the pool floor instead of running them through a filter. Aluminum-based flocculants include aluminum sulfate, aluminum chloride, sodium aluminate, aluminum chlorohydrate, and polyaluminum chloride. The iron-based flocculants include ferric chloride, ferric sulfate, ferrous sulfate, and ferric chloride sulfate.
How to Avoid Swimming Pool Toxicity
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the simplest hacks to absorb fewer toxins when swimming in a pool that has been treated conventionally with chemicals. When it comes to pools, the pores on your skin are one of the biggest gateways to your body. Substances small enough to absorb into the skin, gaining direct access into your bloodstream5.
Putting coconut oil on your skin before entering the water of a conventionally chemically-treated pool acts as a sealant and creates a barrier to entry6. This can significantly minimize the absorption of these chemicals into your skin and bloodstream. Alternatively, you can use natural sunscreen to have the same skin-barrier effect. Make sure you’re not using conventional sunscreens with their own toxins! It is worth noting that chemicals like chlorine can also be absorbed in other ways into the body, including orally and through inhalation.
2. Shower Right Before and Right After You Swim
Taking a 60-second cold or warm (not hot) shower before entering a swimming pool help discourage chlorine from reacting with organic matter in your skin and hair, which studies have shown can create cancerous by-products7-8. Avoiding hot water prevents your pores from opening up before swimming, making it more likely you will absorb toxins. After you swim, rinsing off for another 60-seconds with soap can help wash off anything that is lingering on your skin.
3. Take these Supplements
Avoiding toxic swimming pools is not always possible. Luckily, you can take supplements to buffer their impact and support your body’s detoxification ability. Carbon supplements like True Carbon Cleanse (gut detoxifier) can help escort toxins absorbed by the swimming pool out of the body. True Carbon Cleanse formula provides extremely specialized, highly activated carbon, powerful humates (humic and fulvic acids), Cleanoptilite™️ (Clinoptilolite – Zeolite Crystals), and other Gut Detoxifiers that can attach to and eliminate toxins. TCC serves as a master drainage formula that attracts toxins, binds them so they can’t be reabsorbed, and escorts them out of the body9.
Glutathione is a master antioxidant that supports cellular health by protecting your cells from autointoxication10. The chemicals in pool cleaning agents can take over your cells and reduce the amount of glutathione within the cell, causing the cells to weaken and die. Toxins wreak havoc on our cells and increase cellular inflammation throughout the body, making it hard for our body to produce enough glutathione. A supplement like GCEL works by neutralizing free radicals to prevent damage and contains acetyl glutathione that works at the cellular level. CGEL also contains activated forms of folate, B 12 supports glutathione production, and vitamin C supports glutathione blood levels.
Vitamin C is another supplement that directly fights the impact of chlorine on the body. You can use it topically by dissolving an ascorbic acid supplement in a spray bottle and spraying it onto the skin before entering the pool to neutralize the chlorine11. Before entering the swimming pool, you can also take a supplement like BodyBio – Liposomal Vitamin C.
4. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated before swimming will help your body absorb fewer chemicals in chemically treated pool water. Proper hydration is an art that involves drinking more than plain filtered water. Adding minerals to your water and things like a pinch of plain salt and citrus (lemon or lime) juice promote true cellular hydration.
5. Alternatives to Toxic Swimming Pools
Although saltwater pools may sound like a healthier option than chlorinated pools, their name is unfortunately deceiving. Saltwater swimming pools still generate chlorine; the mechanism is simply different. Unlike pools that require adding chlorine directly, a saltwater pool uses a chlorinating device to convert the salt into chlorine. So they are still toxic swimming pools.
As a result, chlorine is still present in the water, causing all the similar issues found in regular pools with the chemical added directly. Ultimately, saltwater pools are more of a green-washing marketing ploy than anything else when it comes to healthy alternatives. Newer types of pools are coming to market, including “natural pools” that genuinely don’t use chemicals. Natural pools, also known as bio pools, swimming ponds, or living pools, use continuously moving fresh water and natural filters to keep the pool perfect for swimming without any added chemicals.
These natural pools incorporate the whole ecosystem of plant life, bacteria, and other natural materials to create a self-contained pool that is essentially its own little wetland ecosystem. Not only does this naturally filter the water and fight algae, but also fits and looks harmonious in an outdoor environment. Some of these natural pools also have biological filtration systems that rely on bacteria instead of toxins.
5. Swim on Non-Treatment Days
One way to minimize the exposure to chemicals is to find which day(s) the pool chemically treats the pool and swim on other days. Although chemicals are still present, they won’t be as intense as when the pool is treated. Really inquire about the ways your pool is treated and how often. We often assume things, but until you ask, you may be woefully misinformed.
For example, some sea-water pools are chemically treated as well! The infamous Bondi Icebergs outdoor salt-water pool is also chemically treated once a week. Knowing the reality of how your swimming pool is treated can help you make more informed decisions!
6. Opt for Outdoor Pools
If given the opportunity, always choose outdoor swimming pools over indoor ones. This is because the chemicals that evaporate from indoor pools become trapped rather than dispersed through the fresh air of an outdoor pool. This accounts for the intense chlorine smell at your local community center pool or gym.
7. Build Your Own Pool
If you are passionate about swimming but don’t want to compromise your health, you may consider building your own pool. Building a small home pool doesn’t have to be a major ordeal, especially if you choose an above-the-ground model. You can treat home swimming pools with an oxidizer or UV light and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them without adding toxic chemicals into the water or your body. You can also invest in a natural pool with flowing water, a living ecosystem, and bacteria-based biological filters to keep the area thriving.
Toxic Swimming Pools: Summary
Although swimming has many benefits, using conventional pools can wreak havoc on your health. Swimming pool toxicity can be mitigated or avoided altogether by using mindful hacks like applying coconut oil on the skin, taking certain supplements, using alternative pools, swimming on non-treatment days, or ultimately by building your own chemical-free backyard pool.
Medical Disclaimer: information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
- “NIH Human Microbiome Project Defines Normal Bacterial Makeup of the Body.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 31 Aug. 2015, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-human-microbiome-project-defines-normal-bacterial-makeup-body.
- Vlaanderen, Jelle et al. “Acute changes in serum immune markers due to swimming in a chlorinated pool.” Environment international vol. 105 (2017): 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2017.04.009
- “Flocculants.” Flocculant – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/flocculant.
- “Bromine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Apr. 2018, https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/bromine/basics/facts.asp.
- Schneider, Marc et al. “Nanoparticles and their interactions with the dermal barrier.” Dermato-endocrinology vol. 1,4 (2009): 197-206. doi:10.4161/derm.1.4.9501
- Evangelista, Mara Therese Padilla et al. “The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial.” International journal of dermatology vol. 53,1 (2014): 100-8. doi:10.1111/ijd.12339
- “Chlorine – US EPA.” Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/documents/chlorine.pdf.
- “Chemicals in Indoor Swimming Pools May Increase Cancer Risk.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 14 Sept. 2010, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100913163502.htm.
- “Use of Activated Charcoal in Poisonings.” The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, https://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Use_of_Activated_Charcoal_in_Poisonings/.
- Pizzorno, Joseph. “Glutathione!.” Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.) vol. 13,1 (2014): 8-12.
- “Chlorine.” U.S. Masters Swimming, https://www.usms.org/fitness-and-training/articles-and-videos/articles/how-can-i-get-chlorine-out-of-my-suit-and-off-my-body.