Originally published February 2 2015
Drugs and chemicals are polluting swimming pools, endangering health, researchers warn
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Soaking up the summer sun while splashing around in the pool is probably the last thing on your mind, or is it? It being the dead of winter may have you dreaming about warm, sunny days complete with family and friends hanging out poolside, maybe even grilling some grass-fed burgers.
If you own a pool, or even if you simply swim in your neighborhood's community pool, you may want to consider the results of a new study involving chlorine, that harsh chemical commonly used to disinfect the water.
Previously, we've learned that, when certain elements interact with chlorine, new chemicals are formed.
For example, scientists from China Agriculture University and Purdue University discovered that, when urine (introduced by swimmers) interacts with chlorine, a new chemical is created that can cause respiratory complications in swimmers, including inflammation in the lungs and asthma.
The results of a new study suggests that personal care products and chemicals from pharmaceuticals could also be interacting with chlorine, producing potentially harmful byproducts.
"The whole motivation for examining pharmaceuticals and personal care products is that there is this unknown potential for them to bring about undesired or unexpected effects in an exposed population," said Ernest R. Blatchley III, a professor with a joint appointment in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and the Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University.
Scientists detect DEET in swimming pools, an active ingredient in insect repellants
Researchers set out to test their theory using an existing analytical model developed by Ching-Hua Huang, a professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Huang's analytical technique identifies and quantifies 32 pharmaceuticals and personal care products in water. Scientists thought, why not use this model to test for chemicals in swimming pools?
So that's what they did. Water samples were taken from indoor swimming pools in Indiana and Georgia.
Of the 32 chemicals, researchers detected three: "N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, known as DEET, the active ingredient in insect repellants; caffeine; and tri(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate (TCEP), a flame retardant."
Blatchley suggests that the remaining 29 chemicals may not have been detected due to being present at low concentrations. "And because there are literally thousands of pharmaceuticals, this is just a small subset of compounds that could be present in swimming pools," Blatchley said.
"The main issue is that the release of chemicals into a place like a swimming pool is completely uncontrolled and unknown. I don't want to be an alarmist. We haven't discovered anything that would be cause for alarm right now, but the bottom line is we just don't know."
The formation of new chemicals in swimming pools can affect people in a variety of ways, including through absorption in the skin, inhalation and ingestion.
Trace amounts of birth control pills, and other drugs, may be lingering in your swimming pool
"Swimmers are exposed to chemicals through three different routes: You can inhale, you can ingest and it can go through your skin," Blatchley said. "So the exposure you receive in a swimming pool setting is potentially much more extensive than the exposure you would receive by just one route alone."
Blatchley, who has also studied the effects of urine and sweat interacting with chlorine, explains that chemicals found in personal care products, like makeup and sunscreen, aren't fully metabolized by the body and are excreted through sweat and urine.
"Birth control pills, for example, contain hormones. If those chemicals and others are present, especially in a mixture in a water sample that humans are going to be exposed to, then what are the consequences of that? That is a largely unanswered question."
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