The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that having red eyes is not caused by chlorine, but rather it is brought about by the urine of the swimmers. New research found that apart from red eyes, other symptoms such as skin irritations and asthma attacks may be experienced by indoor pool swimmers due to the development of chloramines, which is the by-product of chlorine and human wastes including urine, sweat and body dirt.

Survata, on behalf of the Water Quality and Health Council, performed a survey among Americans. Approximately 50 percent of the study participants believe that a chemical substance is being infused in swimming pools that reacts when urine is present and changes into a distinct color. About 71 percent also mistakenly identify chlorine as the main culprit for turning the eyes red after swimming.

Chlorine is placed in swimming pools to get rid of germs but when significant human wastes come in contact with chlorine, the mixture creates a by-product called chloramines. Chloramines can get concentrated in the water over time, and when the consolidation becomes too high in the water, it moves up to the air. The air near swimming pools is then constantly saturated by irritants, and depending on the concentration and time of exposure, individuals can experience symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.

The air irritant builds up as a result of low-quality air control and turnover. When fresh air above the surface of the pool water gets combined with the recycled air filled with irritants, the exchange of air becomes poor. Air recycling devices are usually installed in indoor swimming pools to manage heating costs. These devices eliminate the moisture from the air but do not facilitate fresh air. These devices also do not have the ability to remove all the irritants in recycled air, increasing the levels of unwanted components both in the air and in the pool water. Although this process may save on heating costs, numerous health hazards may be posed to swimmers and pool staff, compromising their welfare and outweighing the benefits of cost-cutting.

Chlorination is an essential tool to keep pool waters clean and free of irritants, but if the ventilation is poor, the air will still be saturated with irritants and cause health problems to staff and patrons.

"Peeing in a pool depletes chlorine and actually produces an irritant that makes people's eyes turn red," says Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC's Healthy Swimming Program.

In a survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council in 2009, 1 out of 5 people admitted to urinating in pools. People continuously doing the unhygienic practice have caused a tremendous problem, and so the CDC, Water Quality and Health Council and the National Swimming Pool Foundation have initiated a campaign to provide health education to the public.

Aside from not peeing in swimming pools, the CDC now encourages all people to soap shower prior to swimming in public pools and to inspect the place for good air quality. Lastly, the agency recommends people practice regular trips to the comfort room so as to prevent peeing in pools.

Photo: Dushan Hanuska | Flickr

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