(CN) — Chemical byproducts found in swimming pools have long been linked to some potentially severe side effects in humans, but researchers may have found a fresh way to sanitize them that can make them safer and healthier for frequent swimmers.
Whether indoor or outdoor, swimming pools are a popular avenue to get some quality aerobic exercise into one’s everyday life. But while swimming pools make low-impact exercise a reality for countless swimmers, they also come with some unfortunate chemical consequences.
These consequences involve what experts call disinfection byproducts, commonly referred to as DBPs. DBPs are created when certain compounds brought into the water by swimmers — sweat, makeup, urine and more — interact with chlorine, a common cleaning component in most swimming pools. The interaction can result in small chemical byproducts that have been linked to myriad health concerns, including bladder cancer, respiratory issues and even birth complications.
Now, new research suggests there may be a may to help reduce the buildup of these problematic byproducts.
In a study published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers reveal a cleaning method based on copper-silver ionization — a water disinfection technique that has historically been used to help control the bacteria behind Legionnaires' disease — can help reduce the amount of DBPs found in swimming pools.
Researchers made this discovery after collecting water samples from both indoor and outdoor pools that had been treated with a copper-silver ionization method, also known as CSI, and less chlorine. After analyzing the amount of DBPs in the water and running several experiments that could account for the array of variables in any given pool — such as the number of swimmers and the temperatures of the water — researchers found the antimicrobial copper and silver ions helped to lower the overall toxicity of the water.
Experts also observed the water taken from indoor pools contained more toxic DBPs than the water collected from outdoor pools, which researchers say is likely because outdoor pools see DBPs naturally filtered by sunlight over time. For the indoor pools, researchers found DBPs were at their lowest when using the lowest possible amount of chlorine in conjunction with copper-silver ionization.
The researchers stress, however, that their study is not meant to discourage or dismiss the quality health benefits of using swimming pools and only to explore how to make the activity as safe as possible.
“While the formation of DBPs and cytotoxic potency raises concern and should not be ignored, our goal is not to discourage swimming, as this is a well-established healthy form of exercise; rather, our aim is to make the swimming environment safer by seeking ways to lower the byproduct formation,” the study authors write. “The use of CSI with lower amounts of chlorine appears to be a promising way to accomplish this.”
They also noted everyday swimmers can do a lot to help keep DBPs out of swimming pools. Encouraging common sense pool hygiene, such as not urinating in the pool and showering before entering the water, are surprisingly effective at keeping water toxicity under control.
The study says that employing sensible practices like this in connection with a sanitization method driven by copper-silver ionization can help to make swimming pools everywhere safer, healthier outlets for swimmers of all strokes.