Science Inventory

The Good, the Bad, and the Volatile - Can We Have Both Healthy Pools and Healthy People?

Citation:

LaKind, J. S., S. D. RICHARDSON, AND B. C. Blount. The Good, the Bad, and the Volatile - Can We Have Both Healthy Pools and Healthy People? ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 44(9):3205-3210, (2010).

Impact/Purpose:

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Description:

Given the popularity of swimming for recreation and sport, it is remarkable that we are only in the early stages of understanding swimming pool chemistry, human exposure(s), and potential health risks. This is partly due to the complexity of swimming pool water chemistry, which increases with transformations that water undergoes as it moves from its source to pools filled with swimmers. Source waters are variable mixtures containing low levels of hundreds to thousands of chemicals originating from natural and anthropogenic inputs. Source water is then modified by disinfection processes at the water treatment plant. This chemically diverse and continually changing mixture reaches the swimming pool facility where it undergoes major changes due to additional disinfection and swimmer activity. Each pool has a unique set of characteristics that, combined with varying chemistry of source waters, makes characterization of chemistry, toxicity, and exposure an extraordinarily difficult undertaking. Swimmers themselves complicate pool water chemistry and toxicity by introducing undesirable substances (e.g., skin, bodily excretions such as sweat, urine, and fecal matter; pathogens; and personal care products, such as lotions and sunscreens). This was highlighted recently by a study demonstrating that even with secure swim diapers and swim pants, a large fraction (from about half to almost all) of Cryptosporidium-sized particles are released from humans to pool water quickly (within a few minutes); a single “fecal accident” can release 100 million or more parasites. Because swimming pools are virtual communal baths, disinfection (typically by chlorination) to prevent disease outbreaks is essential. However, the disinfection process itself can introduce hazards by reacting with pool water substances to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs), some of which have been associated with adverse health effects. Thus swimming can expose people to potential biological and chemical health risks. On the other hand, swimming is an enjoyable, healthful physical activity. We examine three key aspects related to swimming pools and public health: exposure, health effects, and alternative disinfectants.

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Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Product Published Date: 09/01/2010
Record Last Revised: 01/06/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 215986

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LABORATORY

ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH DIVISION

REGULATORY SUPPORT BRANCH