Chemicals from personal care products contaminate pools

A new study suggests that apart from urine, pharmaceuticals and chemicals from personal care products end up in swimming pools and may impact your health.

IANS| Last Updated: Jan 07, 2015, 14:59 PM IST

Washington: A new study suggests that apart from urine, pharmaceuticals and chemicals from personal care products end up in swimming pools and may impact your health.

These chemicals interact with chlorine to produce disinfection byproducts with unknown properties.

Swimmers are exposed to chemicals through three different routes.

"You can inhale, you can ingest and it can go through your skin. So, the exposure you receive in a swimming pool setting is potentially much more extensive than the exposure you would receive by just one route alone," said Ernest R. Blatchley III, professor at the Purdue University in the US.

Previous research has shown that many constituents of urine including urea, uric acid and amino acids, interact with chlorine to produce potentially hazardous disinfection byproducts in swimming pools.

However, chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products also could be interacting with chlorine, producing potentially harmful byproducts.

"There are literally thousands of chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products that could be getting into swimming pool water," Blatchley III added.

The team used an analytical technique developed by Ching-Hua Huang, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, that identified and quantified 32 pharmaceuticals and personal care products in water.

With Huang and former Purdue doctoral student ShihChi Weng, Blatchley took water samples from indoor swimming pools in Indiana and Georgia.

Of the 32 chemicals investigated, the researchers detected three: DEET which is the active ingredient in insect repellants, caffeine, and TCEP, a flame retardant.

"The other 29 could have been present at concentrations below the detection level," Blatchley said.

Some chemicals are volatile which means they can escape into the air to be inhaled. Others can be ingested or absorbed through the skin.

"Birth control pills, for example, contain hormones. If those chemicals and others are present, especially in a mixture in a water sample that humans are going to be exposed to, then what are the consequences of that? That is a largely unanswered question," the authors asked.

The recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water.

The infections include gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound-related. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhoea.

The findings were detailed in a research paper that appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.