The Mail Online reports: Scientists find insect repellent, caffeine and flame retardant chemicals in public pools.
- Researchers collected water from pools in Indiana and Georgia
- Chlorine is designed to keep swimming pools clear of certain bacteria
- But it also reacts with pharmaceuticals to create harmful by-products
- Tests revealed traces of insect repellent, caffeine and flame retardants
- It is though these chemicals originated from everyday pharmaceuticals and personal care products
- Experts warned such chemicals can be ingested and cause health issues
Many pools ask swimmers to shower before getting in the water, and a new study has highlighted the grim reality of why this is.
Tests on water collected from indoor swimming pools in the US discovered that everyday pharmaceuticals, such as makeup, could be reacting in a harmful way with the chlorine in the pool.
The analysis found traces of chemicals typically found in skin care products, insect repellent and flame retardants, all of which have the potential to be ingested by swimmers.
‘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.’
Some chemicals are volatile, which means they can escape into the air to be inhaled. Others can be ingested or absorbed through the skin.
‘Swimmers are exposed to chemicals through three different routes: You can inhale, you can ingest and it can go through your skin.
‘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,’ Professor Blatchley said.
Pharmaceuticals may get into swimming pool water from personal care products applied to the skin such as insect repellant, makeup and sunscreen.
Many pharmaceuticals that are ingested are not fully metabolised by the body and are excreted in sweat and urine.
‘Urine, I think, is really the primary mode of introduction,’ Professor Blatchley said.
‘When it comes to pharmaceuticals, these are chemicals designed to be biologically active at pretty low concentrations.
‘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.’
The findings are published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
Interestingly the Daily Mail has highlighted many scares like this over water quality. Quoting from Hung Out to Dry page 129: “in the August of 1933 the Daily Mail drew attention to the deplorable condition of many swimming pools throughout the country. Warnings were given about both the lack of chlorination and its overuse. This article shocked both the public and the medical profession with reports of typhoid and diphtheria contracted in swimming pools. The paper continued to highlight the unsatisfactory conditions, until by 1935 great improvements had been achieved.“
As suspicion grew over water quality, river and lake bathing places came in for scrutiny, In Leicester all official river bathing stations were closed as the water was deemed unfit to swim in. Since then natural water quality has improved beyond recognition, yet swimming in polluted indoor pools is the only swimming sanctioned in the city today!
 The 1936 Public Health Act focused attention on water quality. The lake in London’s Victoria Park closed and swimmers moved into a newly constructed lido.