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Swimming Season is Here! Is Chlorine Unsafe? What About Sand?

swimming childQuestion: We plan on swimming a lot this summer in pools, and we’re going to the beach. I read chlorine is unsafe but maybe sand isn’t safer? Can you tell me if it’s OK to take the kids swimming?

Answer: No swimming spot — whether it’s at the shore or down the block — is 100 percent safe. On the other hand, the risks are hardly great enough to keep your family in dry dock. At the beach, as you suggest, a main concern is the sand. There’s evidence it can occasionally harbor unhealthy bacteria like E. coli and MRSA. To keep everyone safe on beach days, insist that hands be washed before eating, showers be taken when you get home, and any cuts be well covered. Use tools for digging sandcastles and resist the urge for a full-body burial. If you are worried about pool safety, the main concern is the chlorine being used for water treatment. Research shows that chlorine can promote asthma and react with foreign material suspended in the water like sunscreen and organic matter to create carcinogenic hazards. Protect your kid’s health and safety by choosing outdoor pools where chlorine fumes won’t build up and showering immediately after swimming. If possible, swim at off-peak times when fewer people are present, and pick pools that require swimmers to shower before diving in. If a pool has a strong chlorine smell, that’s a sign it’s either over-chlorinated or contaminated with reactive compounds. Pick another pool if you can. Learn more at Healthy Child Healthy World and enjoy a wet and happy summer!

Got questions about children’s environmental health? Send them our way with “Babble” in the subject line and we’ll be happy to answer you right here on this blog.

Photos credit: Shutterstock

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