According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlorine by itself does not cause irritation to the eye. As it turns out, it’s something far less pleasant.
Latinos Health reports that the common irritants found in pools are the products of chlorine binding to urine and sweat. Dr. Michael J. Beach, the associate director of the CDC’s Healthy Water Program, explains that the report has refuted common misconceptions about chlorine and pool cleanliness in general.
“Chlorine binds with all the things it’s trying to kill from your bodies, and it forms these chemical irritants,” Beach said. “That’s what’s stinging your eyes. It’s the chlorine binding to the urine and sweat.”
Along the same lines, another study conducted by Women’s Health found that this chemical binding irritates the lungs in addition to the eyes.
The CDC study also found that there has been an increase in disease outbreaks in community swimming pools due to people swimming who have diarrhea. People with diarrhea don’t have to defecate in the pool in order to spread disease. Germs present in the body are easily contagious and can spread throughout a pool. Researchers and pool professionals recommend that people take a shower before entering the pool.
Due to the increased use of chlorine over the years, some germs have inevitably evolved to become resistant to the chemical, something that concerns the CDC a lot.
“We have a new parasitic germ that has emerged that’s immune to chlorine,” Beach said. “We’ve got to keep it out of the pool in the first place. We need additional barriers.”
He went on to point out that, contrary to popular belief, chlorine isn’t capable of killing all germs found in a pool. Some germs and parasites can survive in pool water for days, even with regular chlorine use. Fortunately, however, deadly bacteria such as E. coli and hepatitis can be destroyed with the chemical.
Another common misconception about pool cleanliness has nothing to do with chlorine’s effectiveness in killing germs. Rather, it asserts the idea that there’s a chemical out there used alongside chlorine that can make the water turn a different color near someone who urinates in the pool. Beach was quick to shoot the idea down.
“It’s a myth. It’s about scaring people into not urinating in the pool,” he said.
Pool sanitation is a science in itself, with many precautions taken in order to ensure no one gets sick. The pH level of pool water, for example, should be between 7.2 and 7.8 to prevent destruction of the pool as well as algae growth.