How to Minimize Chlorine Exposure At The Pool

By Allison Evans |

How to Minimize Chlorine Exposure At The Pool

Swimming is one of the great pleasures of summer, especially if you’re a kid or live in a hot and humid climate.

However, the chlorine used to treat most public and private swimming pools is a harmful chemical. This leaves us in a bit of a quandary: do you risk it for the sake of good exercise and summertime fun? Or go the very unpopular route and avoid chlorinated pools altogether?

If you and your family enjoy swimming and socializing, chances are you’ll risk it and swim in a chlorinated pool at least a few times this summer. Which makes learning how to protect yourself from the effects of chlorine a must for healthy summertime fun.

The Health Impacts of Chlorinated Pools

There are several reasons we recommend taking steps to limit your chlorine exposure as much as possible.

The biggest reason is that chlorine is especially dangerous if absorbed in large amounts.

Now, if you frequent a pool where the staff is very conscious of the chlorine levels this may not pose a huge threat. However, not every pool’s staff is perfect at monitoring chlorine levels, and this can lead to a variety of short-term and long-term health consequences.

Since the skin is our biggest organ and it absorbs about 64% of the contaminant dose it comes into contact with when you swim in a chlorinated pool your skin absorbs the chlorine.

Unfortunately, chlorine competes with iodine in the body and displaces iodine uptake in the thyroid gland which can lead to thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism. Chlorine is also a lung irritant due to the toxic gases it emits, such as nitrogen trichloride.

While chlorine does disinfect water, it also creates other harmful compounds called disinfection by-products (DBPs). Research has shown that DBPs are carcinogenic and negatively impact a variety of organs and systems, most notably your skin, eyes, and liver.

We share these facts not to rain on your summer fun, rather to increase awareness about why it’s so important to protect yourself from frequent chlorine exposure.

6 Ways to Minimize Chlorine Absorption

While only a full body wetsuit can prevent all chlorine absorption at the pool (while seriously cramping your fashion), there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure to chlorine and other harmful disinfectant byproducts (DBPs).

  1. Shower before entering the pool. This prevents chlorine from reacting with organic matter in your skin and hair, which studies have shown can create potentially cancerous by-products
  2. Swim in outdoor pools to minimize lung irritation from trapped gases in enclosed area.
  3. Talk to the staff to ensure they’re trained on how to administer and monitor chlorine levels. This is especially important if you visit one pool frequently, like your community pool or gym.
  4. Hydrate well before and during your swim. This will help your body absorb less pool water.
  5. Wear a goggles to protect your eyes.
  6. Shower in warm (not hot) water immediately after leaving the pool. (Psst - you can even use Branch Basics Concentrate x Foaming Wash as your body wash!). This will remove as much chlorine from your skin as possible, while the warm water prevents your pores from opening up and exposing you to more chlorine.

Minimizing Chlorine Exposure Through Diet

Furthermore, you can also minimize chlorine exposure through up-regulating your diet and focusing on foods and practices that support detoxification and reduce the body's chlorine load. 

  •  The ingestion of Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the most important water soluble antioxidant vitamin in the body, so ingesting it before and after swimming can increase antioxidant levels, which helps neutralize chlorine. Foods like fruits and vegetables are a great way to increase Vitamin C levels. Enjoying a big piece of watermelon before or after swimming provides a refreshing treat that boosts Vitamin C to combat chlorine. Also, taking a natural Vitamin C powder or capsules before and after swimming is a great way to combat the damaging impact of exposure to chlorine.
  • Increase Iodine Intake: One effective way to reduce chlorine's impact on the body is to increase the iodine content in your diet. Adequate iodine levels protect the thyroid from damage. With low iodine, chlorine can occupy the thyroid receptors meant for iodine, potentially crippling thyroid function. Excellent sources of iodine include sea vegetables, wild-caught seafood (especially cod and oysters), eggs, liver, Greek yogurt, pineapple, strawberries, and prunes. There is also an easy to take iodine supplement (do not go over the recommended dose).  Note: Iodine deficiency is the most common cause for thyroid issues. There is a caveat - more iodine is not the key - consult with your doctor about taking iodine if you are on thyroid medication, or have an autoimmune condition called Hashimotos that impacts the thyroid. 
  • Increase Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Consuming foods high in antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and support the body's natural detoxification processes that break down chlorine and its toxic byproducts. Eat the rainbow! Include fruits like berries, oranges, apples, and grapes, and colorful vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, and bell peppers.
  • Boost Glutathione Levels: Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in detoxification. Eat sulfur-rich foods such as garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)and include protein sources like beans and legumes, lean meats, fish, and eggs.

By incorporating these dietary strategies, you can help minimize chlorine exposure and support overall health, particularly during the summer swimming season!

    Our Favorite Chlorine Pool Alternatives

    If you want to avoid chlorine as much as possible, check out these fun swimming alternatives:

    • Salt water pools—most cities and towns have at least one athletic club or hotel with a salt water pool. And while some may add a bit of chlorine, it will be a lot less than a traditional chlorinated pool.
    • Natural bodies of water—it goes without saying (but we will) that clean lakes, rivers, ponds, creeks, oceans, waterfalls, etc. are an ideal way to cool off, naturally.
    • Pools treated with chlorine alternatives—such as: Wailani, a swimming pool ionizer and sanitizer; and Spectralight’s system which uses UV light and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect.

    Like with all things health-related, when it comes to swimming, it's important to strike a balance that aligns with your health needs and goals.

    While in a perfect world all pools would be chlorine-free, swimming is also excellent exercise and getting out in the sun does wonders for your vitamin D levels and your emotional health.

    So, stay aware, follow these tips, and enjoy your summer!

    Allison Evans

    Allison Evans

    Allison has dedicated herself to helping others reap the benefits of clean living. She, along with her husband and two daughters left Houston for the country life as she heals from a recent mold exposure and diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. Follow her story on our Instagram and read more about her Journey to Fertility.