Summer is here. If you're like most people, you've spent some time in a swimming pool. I know retirees spend a lot of time swimming. The exercise is great. But you may not realize most pools can cause serious health problems. That's because the overwhelming majority of pools in America are "purified" with chlorine.

It's true that chlorine can clean your pool, but I hardly call it a purifier. All it really does is kill bacteria. But chlorine does much more than kill bacteria. I've reported in the past how chlorine can cause cancer and heart disease. But now there's evidence it can also affect your lungs.

Chlorine leaves very harmful chlorinated hydrocarbon residues. It can react with urine and sweat to create compounds called chloramines that irritate your respiratory tract. It can cause sinus problems, sore throat, and chronic colds. But that's not all.

Researchers surveyed more than 600 swimming pool employees and found that the problems can be much more severe. They wanted to know how much time they were around pool water. Then they measured trichloramine in the pools. This compound is the most volatile type of chloramines. That means that it evaporates off very quickly from the water, making it easier for you to inhale.

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Those with the most exposure to the chemical had the most problems. Swimming instructors were more than twice as vulnerable to sinusitis and sore throat. They also had more than a 300% increase in chronic colds compared to pool workers with less exposure, such as caterers. Those with the greatest exposure had a 40% greater risk of chest tightness. And they were over seven times as likely to have shortness of breath while walking.

These are very alarming statistics. Chlorine is a known respiratory poison. In fact, terrorists in Iraq now use chlorine gas bombs to attack the Iraqi people. The chlorine actually chokes its victims by irritating the skin and lungs. The pain it causes can be intense. It can also cause organ damage and, in some cases, death.

You obviously get far less exposure from pools than from a chlorine gas bomb. But if you spend any time around pools, you need to ask yourself how much of this poison you want to be exposed to. Personally, I think you should avoid it whenever possible.

Fortunately, that doesn't mean you have to avoid swimming. If you have a hot tub, Jacuzzi, or your own pool, you can take matters into your own hands and purify it with ozone rather than chlorine. Ozone is germicidal, and best of all, oxidizes hydrocarbons to harmless carbon dioxide and water.

If you visit a community or association pool, put a word in for ozonization and take the managers a copy of this article. Ozone equipment requires a capital investment. After that, it's relatively cheap to operate. I've seen devices online ranging from $257 for a home spa to $1,175 for a major swimming pool. If the association pays for it, the cost per family will be small. And it's a small price to pay to save your lungs.

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