WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers at Purdue University have determined how certain airborne contaminants are created when chlorine reacts with sweat and urine in indoor swimming pools, a step toward learning how to reduce the formation of "volatile disinfection byproducts" that cause respiratory irritation.
"Some indoor swimming pools seem to have a characteristic chlorine odor," said Purdue environmental engineering professor Ernest R. Blatchley III. "You may think you're smelling chlorine, but you are probably smelling a mixture of disinfection byproducts. If their concentrations get high enough, then they can become an irritant to your respiratory system, to your skin and to your eyes."
The problem received national attention last summer when the U.S. National Swimming Championships in Indianapolis were interrupted after swimmers experienced difficulty breathing.
Standard tests for swimming pool water detect inorganic byproducts, or chemical compounds that do not contain carbon-hydrogen bonds. The Purdue researchers are the first to identify the presence of organic "volatile disinfection byproducts," which become airborne and pose health concerns.
Findings from the Purdue research were published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Additional findings are expected to appear later this year in the same journal and will be presented during the World Aquatic Health Conference on Oct. 15-17 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Postdoctoral research associate Jing Li and Blatchley, both in Purdue's School of Civil Engineering, are leading the work.
The research is part of an effort to apply to the aquatics industry the same level of scientific rigor seen in the study of drinking-water chemistry, said Michael Beach, acting associate director for healthy water in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne and Enteric Diseases.
"If you don't un
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