Childhood asthma linked to swimming pools

"The rise in Childhood asthma in the UK may be partly due to increased exposure to indoor swimming pools, according to research published last week that shows a direct correlation between the number of swimming pools in a country and the prevalence of asthma.

"The researchers, led by Alfred Bernard, professor of toxicology at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, found that the incidence of childhood asthma rose in areas with indoor pools.

"This may explain why 20% of children in the UK suffer from asthma, compared with less than 4% in countries such as Latvia, Romania and Poland, 3% in Russia and 5% in Greece--where there are fewer indoor pools. It also explains why asthma levels remain high in parts of the UK, such as Scotland, with low pollution...

"Research in Belgium has already suggested that regular pool attendance, especially by young children, increases the risk of developing asthma--especially among the 30% of children who are atopic (susceptible to allergies). Trichloramine gas--a byproduct of chlorination that produces the distinctive "chlorine smell"--is to blame. Water-insoluble, it goes straight into the lungs when inhaled and damages the tissue there.

"The research, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, builds on the previous data. The researchers drew on the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), which analysed rates of wheezing and asthma among 190,000 teenagers, aged 13 to 14, from 21 countries...

"The findings have led Prof Bernard to conclude that children who are susceptible to allergies should not be allowed to swim in pools that smell strongly of chlorine. Outdoor chlorinated pools are safer as the gas is quickly dispersed.

""If there is a strong chlorine smell and if the child is atopic, it may increase their risk of atopic diseases," Prof Bernard warned. "This environment isn't healthy for them and I personally would be careful. I wouldn't recommend it. It's just common sense" (Sarah Hall. "Childhood asthma linked to swimming pools." Guardian Weekly, Aug. 3, 2006: 21).

Colby Glass, MLIS