What's The Chlorine Problem?
BLEACH IS ADDED TO SWIMMING POOLS
BECAUSE IT IS A GREAT SANITIZER
Adding bleach to the pool water lets all of us swim in safe, clean water. By contrast, improperly sanitized water can host a variety of bacteria, which can cause serious illness.
Bottom line: adding bleach to the water is important; all pools should add prescribed amounts of bleach to the water to keep it safe.
Chlorine is the most popular bleach used in pools because it is cheap & extremely effective. Chlorine can be added to pool water in a variety of forms, such as
Some pools, and most hot tubs, use bromine instead of chlorine. Bromine is more expensive than chlorine but provides greater tolerance to high temperatures.
In salt water pools, the sanitization system generates chlorine from salt in the pool.
In all cases, swimming pools must be treated with some form of bleach in order to keep the water safe and healthy. Although the source and forms may differ, we are all effectively swimming in a pool of bleach.
Bleach is excellent at killing bacteria, because it is a powerful oxidant. As a powerful oxidant, bleach rapidly reacts with living cells. Bleach effectively oxidizes bacteria, viruses, algae, and other microbes, killing them on contact. Unfortunately, bleach also reacts with other livingthings, because all living things are made from similar chemical building blocks i.e., proteins, amino acids, etc.
Bleach is extremely difficult to wash off the
human body because it chemically bonds to
the body’s proteins
From a chemical standpoint, the exterior of the human body (e.g., hair, skin, and nails) is made from proteins. All proteins are made from amino groups, which have nitrogen atoms, also called amines.
Bleach chemically reacts with amines, forming a layer of chloramines on the surface of the hair and skin.
In contrast to oil or dirt, this layer of chloramines is chemically bonded to the human body.
Experts in sanitization refer to this layer of chloramines as “chlorine cover.”
We often refer to it as “lingering chlorine” or “residual chlorine.” Regardless of the name, swimmers’ hair and skin become coated in a layer of bleach during and after swimming.
To eliminate the chloramine layer, one must break the nitrogen chlorine bonds. The nitrogen chlorine bond does not simply wash away like oil or dirt.
For this reason, many swimmers notice that the chlorine smell on their hair and skin persists despite using copious amounts of shampoo and soap.
Because the chloramine film on swimmers doesn’t wash away with traditional showering, many swimmers fail to wash the bleach off their hair and skin after swimming.
Many swimmers report smelling like chlorine all the time because of this layer of residual bleach on their body
Residual Chlorine can cause damaged
hair and irritated Skin
Although the bleach smell itself is rather harmless, it signifies a bigger problem. The bleach smell indicates that the swimmer is covered in a layer of chloramines.
That layer of chloramines continues
to oxidize the swimmer’s hair and
skin over the course of days
As a result, the bleach continues to damage hair and irritate skin long after the swimmer leaves the pool.
The damage and irritation caused by this residual chlorine are exactly what we should expect from prolonged exposure to bleach: hair lightening and discoloration; and dry, itchy, irritated skin. The more exposure, the more harmful the sideeffects.
The best way to minimize the sideeffects of bleach is to minimize exposure to bleach by getting it off the body immediately after wimming.
(Notably people using bleach for cleaning and sanitizing purposes often limit exposure by wearing protective gloves. People not wearing gloves report that their hands smell like chlorine after working with bleach).
Traditional Soaps and Shampoos (including swimmer’s shampoos) do not work
After swimming, bleach is chemically bonded to the swimmer’s hair and skin. It does not simply wash away with water, soap, shampoo, or body wash — even so-called “anti-chlorine,” “chlorine-out,” or “swimmers shampoo.”
Shampoos and body washes are formulated with surfactants (like sodium laureth sulfate) to wash away oil and dirt. They are also formulated with thickening agents (like glycols) which give soaps and shampoos their gelatinous consistency
From a scientific standpoint, there is no such thing as a good swimmers’ shampoo, soap, or body wash. Formulating a thick, lathering product makes it ineffective at eliminating chlorine.
The ingredients that provide thickness and lather are not compatible with the ingredients that eliminate chlorine.
Accordingly, the bleach bonded to a swimmers’ hair and skin does not away with water, soap, shampoo, or body wash. Because swimmers often fail to wash the bleach off their bodies, they report smelling like chlorine for days after swimming—even after taking multiple showers and consequently may suffer from the harsh effects of chlorine, such as dry, irritated skin and dry, discolored hair
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