Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chlorine - Another Harmful Chemical

Chlorinated chemicals can cause serious health problems and cancer (especially liver cancer). The most common chlorinated chemicals are chloroform, para-dichlorobenzene, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, and methyl chloroform. These chemicals come from cleaning products (e.g. laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaning products, etc), dry-cleaned materials (including carpets, drapes, upholstered furniture), treated municipal water (to disinfect the water supply), and swimming pools.

There is growing evidence that children who use chlorinated open-air swimming pools have an increased risk of developing asthma. Recent studies revealed that the typical “chlorine” smell in the air and its irritant properties are attributed to chloramines (monochloramine, dichloramine, and trichloramine) that are generated from the reaction of the hypochlorite with ammonia and amino-compounds from sweat and urine of swimmers. A study made in Belgium with schoolchildren, revealed that swimming in chlorinated pools represents a hazard of pulmonary damage, and could be responsible for the increase in asthma in Western societies. Their study found that regular attendance at indoor chlorinated pools by children was strongly associated with an increased likelihood of developing asthma or of an airway inflammation. Whether these outcomes are measured separately or in combination, Cumulated Pool Attendance ranks as one of the strongest and most consistent predictors immediately after atopy and family history of allergic diseases. This is scary news, especially for those parents whose children are at a higher risk of developing asthma.

What to do then? Here are some things we can do in the meantime:

- Avoid using chlorinated products; if it is really necessary to use some of them make sure you use them in a well ventilated area and wear a mask.
- Go for green cleaning products; they do not contain chlorine since is bad for the environment. However, read the list of ingredients.
Avoid using air fresheners; some of them contain para-dichlorobenzene. However, they have other bad chemicals inside.
Avoid dry-cleaning by purchasing clothes that do not require dry-cleaning.
- Chose cleaning products that have the “Green Seal” to clean your carpet, drapes, upholstered furniture.
- Call your municipal water department to find out if your water is chlorinated or treated with chlorinated chemicals. If it is (and usually it is!) try to reduce the hot water consumption by installing water flow restrictors in shower heads and reduce the temperature of the shower water. This will help you to reduce the exposure to chloroform. If possible, install a water filter.
- Ventilate well your house.
- Avoid opening the dishwasher while in use and keep the windows open.
- If possible, install high flow rate exhaust fans.
-Use indoor air filters and cleaners.

- Limit swimming in indoor chlorinated swimming pools.
- Shower before going to the swimming pool.
- If possible, select less used pools or swim at times when there are fewer people in the pool.
- If you have your own pool, do not use chlorine.
- If possible go to the beach.
- Read this article in the Green Guide for more tips.

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