Chlorine fumes from pools

Q: Can the fumes from a chlorinated pool, especially in an indoor pool setting, be harmful to babies or young children taking swim lessons?

A recent study found that trichloramine, the chemical by-product that gives pools that distinct chlorine odor, can be associated with airway changes that could predispose some children to asthma and recurrent bronchitis later in childhood. At the time of birth—for that matter, by the third trimester—the organ systems (respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and nervous systems) are basically formed, but are still not entirely developed. Infants, are more susceptible to exposures and [environmental] insults than toddlers, young children or adults.

However, in communities like ours where access to swimming pools is widely available, it is imperative to teach children to swim at an early age. Drowning is a significant cause of death in children under the age of 5 years in Arizona.

Although asthma can be serious and may potentially be fatal, as a pulmonary physician I am much more confident in our ability to achieve a good outcome in the treatment of asthma than I am in the unfortunate outcome we experience with childhood drownings.

Neal Rinne, M.D., pulmonologist, CIGNA Medical Group