Swimming in chlorinated pools heightens bladder cancer risk by 57%
01/24/2019 // Mary Miller // Views

Swimming is a popular form of both exercise and recreation. It is a low-impact physical activity that doesn't require intense physical exertion. Swimming, on its own, can provide a number of health benefits, but you should be on the lookout for what kinds of pools you swim in. Swimming in pools that are filled with chlorinated water can actually increase your risk of bladder cancer and lead to other health conditions.

Chlorine is a chemical that is commonly used to disinfect water, such as the water in swimming pools. If chlorine enters your body, it will react with water to produce corrosive acids that can damage the cells in your body. Exposure to this harsh chemical can often result in immediate symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest, sore throat, and irritation of the airway, skin, and eyes. If short-term exposure to chlorine can already cause immediate effects, imagine what long-term exposure could do to your body.

Health risks of swimming in chlorinated water

According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, exposure to swimming pool chemicals through inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption can be detrimental to one's health. The authors noted that a heightened risk of bladder cancer was already linked with chlorine exposure in drinking water. The study further analyzed other water-related activities as possible causes of bladder cancer. Chlorinated swimming pools were often found to contain traces of trihalomethane (THM), a disinfectant byproduct that can pose an increased risk of bladder cancer. Swimming in chlorinated water full of THM can actually increase your risk of bladder cancer by as much as 57 percent. Additionally, THM tends to enter your body through your skin or lungs, which can be more dangerous than entering by ingestion since skin absorption and inhalation bypass the detoxifying effects of the liver. (Related: Study: Chlorinated water found to increase risk of bladder cancer.)


Aside from bladder cancer, there are many other health risks that involve exposure to chlorine and its cancer-causing byproducts. These can include the risk of colorectal, skin, and liver cancers, eye infections, liver problems, kidney problems, and breathing problems, such as asthma and epiglottitis. In one study, exposure to chemically treated pools that had concentrations of chlorine-based pool chemicals at a rate of two to four parts per million (ppm) was observed to cause constriction in the airways of the lungs, resulting in breathing problems. According to another study in the journal Pediatrics, typical levels of chlorine in pool water were found to raise the risk of developing asthma in children by as much as six times.

Safe cleaning alternatives to chlorine

Chlorine may be one of the most popular chemical treatments for cleaning water, but it's certainly not the only one. There are other ways to disinfect water that are much safer than using chlorine or chlorine-based chemicals. Here are a few safer solutions for cleaning your swimming pool without any toxic chemicals:

  • Sphagnum moss. You can use sphagnum moss to naturally fight algae and bacteria in your swimming pool.
  • Ionizing pool cleaning system. This system operates by pulsating electricity with copper and silver to change the electric structure of the water in your pool. The altered structure can discourage the growth of bacteria.
  • Ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet (UV-C) light can eliminate chlorine-resistant microorganisms and improve your pool's water quality.

If you really have no other option but to use chlorine to clean your swimming pool, limit the amount of chlorine you use to a low concentration of 0.5 ppm. This significantly reduces your risk of any harmful side effects.

Learn more about the harmful effects of chlorine and other toxic chemicals by going to Chemicals.news.

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