Chlorine at YMCA Pools

September 18, 2013


YMCAs Reputation for Chlorine

YMCA pools often get a bad rap for having high levels of chlorine.  In our conversations with chlorine-sensitive swimmers, people seem to use the term "YMCA pool" as automatically suggesting high chlorine levels.  For example, someone called SwimSpray today and explained, "I swim in a salt water pool during the summer... but I swim indoors in the winter, and it's at a YMCA pool!"

Do YMCA pools have more chlorine?

The center for disease control recommends that swimming pools maintain a chlorine concentration of about 1.0 - 3.0 parts per million.  Provided that all pools generally follow these recommendations, there is no reason to believe that YMCA pools should be expected to have more chlorine.  So why the bad reputation?  Here are a few possibilities.

YMCA pools could use more than the recommended amount of chlorine.

Today on Twitter, ‏@TylerVanKooten tweeted the photo at the left, noting that "Seems like the chlorine level at the YMCA is pretty high today."  While the tweet seems to joke at a 420 reference, the data also shows 4.20 parts per million chorine, which is in fact quite high (i.e., concentrated). 

Two days before, ‏@annabethfray posted "Ok so the ventilation at my ymca is crap and they had too much chlorine in the pool so everyone was coughing because we couldnt breathe omg"
‏And the day before that, @frankie_swags 14 
exclaimed, "Oh Vineland YMCA, how I've missed your smell of chlorine and sweat and broken dreams."

Chlorine TestingOther Factors Could Contribute to High Chlorine Observations.

Higher water temperatures, aging equipment, and poor pool ventilation could contribute to the impression that certain pools have higher than normal levels of chlorine.  Notably many people mistake chlorine odor (coming form chloramines) for "chlorine," which is technically a toxic, odorless, yellow gas.  The best way to be sure of a pool's chlorine concentration is to measure the chemicals with a chemical test kit.

Not All YMCA Pools are Alike

The bottom line is that it would be unfair to generalize all YMCA pools as having offensively high chlorine levels.  To the contrary some YMCA pools are leaders in reducing chlorine concentrations.  One example is the Cumberland County YMCA Portland Branch on Forest Avenue in Portland, Maine.  That pool benefits from a new discovery that adding an enzyme to pool water reduces the phosphate level, requiring less chlorine and saving some money.  

Yes, a YMCA pool pioneers milder chlorine levels!  Perhaps it is time to stop holding those pools out as characteristically over-chlorinated.  In any event, a person wanting to eliminate the adverse side-effects of chlorine after swimming should rinse with a vitamin C spray during their post-swim shower.  Here's how.

2 Responses

eric glencross

April 18, 2017

got rash from bangor me ymca pool


November 02, 2016

I was thinking about joining the YMCA here in Santa Barbara, Ca but when I went into the pool area my eyes immediately started watering and it has been a hour later and they are still red…I have NEVER in 66 years of my life smelled such strong chlorine WITH NO VENTILATION in the POOL area…I do not see why when it is 70 degrees in Santa Barbara why they can’t open the doors to get fresh air..

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