Chlorine is one of those things that’s very difficult to avoid either in our drinking water, bath, shower or public swimming. While it’s added to our drinking water and bathing water to kill bacteria which is of course a GOOD thing in theory, because it means many pathogens are killed before they make us sick, chlorine isn’t that crash hot for us. Chlorine produces these little nasties called “disinfection by-products” and we need to try to minimise our exposure to them. If you caught my podcast with Professor Marc Cohen recently, you’ll have heard he’s trying to work on research to convince policymakers there’s a way to protect us from pathogens in drinking and pool water, that DOESN’T have to involve chlorine. Chlorine is shown to damage skin, respiratory and digestive systems over time. There’s a worthy case indeed for it not being in our drinking water if you read this MOTHER JONES exposé here.
Children swimmers are more likely to develop asthma than non-swimmers and their bodies absorb chlorine at a faster rate than adults. There have been many studies on the effects of high exposure to chlorinated water/pools and while it’s not disastrous, it’s not ideal, so if we can lessen our exposure to something that could be quite harmful, let’s do it. I’m a big believer in the precautionary principle.
Some research suggests that chlorine exposure in adults can block the uptake of iodine, causing concern for thyroid function.
Choose your swim club wisely – scope it out for ventilation if you have a choice between a few – you can feel the difference between a suffocating indoor pool with poor ventilation and air exchange vs one that prioritises air exchange and flow. Can you find an outdoor option? The exposure is lessened by being outdoors, so there’s something to consider, too.
I always say to ask yourself “Does the benefit outweigh the risk?” ie, if this is a therapeutic recovery option or exercise option for you that works, that you’re motivated by and that you need in your life, the benefit of moving your body frequently in a way that you’re motivated by and love, for me, is far more important than the exposure to chlorine in this weigh-up. No thyroid or asthma issues? Keep an eye but otherwise, keep swimming and add some preventative measures in. that’s where I land – feel free to land differently, of course.
You can work to see if the club you swim at might work to improve their indoor air quality, add more extraction fans/air exchange to lessen humidity and chlorine vapour and then? The great news is you can mitigate harmful effects in a few ways too!
Here are 5 ways to mitigate associated risks with frequent chlorine exposure from tap water, to showering, baths and swimming pools. I hope they’re useful for you.
1. Prevent chlorine itch and skin issues stemming from chlorine exposure
Have you ever had a chlorine rash? Red and bumpy skin after you’ve been in the pool or the shower for a long time? It’s a bit nasty but there are plenty of natural remedies for it. You can use ice cubes to cool down the itch – added bonus of keeping you chilled on a hot day. You can also use homemade scrubs with sugar and almond oil or sugar and olive oil. You can try my coconut caramel lemon body scrub! Adding 1/2 a cup of baking soda to your bath can also help if the rash won’t go away.
Removing chlorine from your shower is a huge benefit and this shower filter is awesome and has super easy replacement refill filters – it removes the chlorine from your shower and it helps to remove nasty irritants that can cause things like eczema and dry skin – perfect for getting little peeps suffering these issues, clean without the irritation. The daily shower is most people’s biggest chlorine exposure.
At the pool? Apply a good thick moisturiser on before you get into the pool. A simple olive or coconut oil is fine and cheap or whatever one you use if you have a preference.
2. Use Vitamin C in the bath + Take Vitamin C
A neat little trick to minimise chlorine in your bath water is to add a tablespoon of vitamin c powder for every bath. There are two types of vitamin c that will neutralise chlorine in water – ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate, so you can use either of them and a pharmacy cheap and cheerful is fine. Vitamin C will also neutralise chloramine which is chlorine and ammonia, which is perfect for little ones who sometimes wee in the tub. Pop it in as you’re running the bath, wait a minute before getting into the bath, open a window + turn your extraction fan on for vapour ventilation and voila! Want to nerd out scientifically on how exactly it neutralises the chlorine? Be my guest. Warning: It’s a dry read! 😉
For taking a vitamin C, it’s best to choose a natural option like this as it will be gentler on the system, not contain excipients and be more bioavailable – Wild, organic vitamin C
3. Protect your hair and body
Before you go near chlorinated water, rub some coconut or olive oil on your body and on the lengths of your hair and give it 5 minutes to absorb. It creates a protective barrier between the chlorine and you and slows down the rate at which you will absorb the chlorine. It prevents that nasty, brassy look in blond-coloured hair, too. Also, consider wearing a swim cap! Did you know in most parts of Italy you’re not allowed in a public pool without a swim cap on? Not only do they protect your hair, they also stop it from falling out and clogging up the pool. After the pool just wash your hair gently with whatever low tox shampoo and conditioner you use.
You could use a gorgeous lux body scrub too that has natural oils in it, to create a barrier pre-swim and make it a part of your self-care pamper routine that you all have – right? Ethique body scrub bar is divine, as is the Evohe Face and Body Scrub On a budget? My 40 second coffee body scrub is luxurious and super, super inexpensive and quick to make!
4. Add Vitamin C powder to your low tox sunscreen
I’ve always added Vitamin C powder to my baths but adding it to your regular low tox sunscreen is also apparently a great idea. Tip: add it as you go, don’t just pop it straight in the bottle. Vitamin C powder will last a year in it’s jar but once you mix it with another compound like water or another kind of liquid its benefits decrease more quickly over time. Just mix 1/4 teaspoon of powder in to a big squirt of sunscreen and you’ll be right and neutralising chlorine while you swim, with the sunscreen forming a barrier also.
5. Consider a water filter for your drinking water
Whether or not you see the benefit in removing fluoride from your drinking water which I’ve written about in my first book in terms of what the weigh-ups you might want to consider are, either way, there’s a whole bunch of other stuff we can all agree we don’t want in our drinking water – chlorine, pesticide/herbicide residues, bacterial or parasitic pathogens and heavy metals.
The Waters Co water filters , an awesome Aussie family business selling an excellent range of filters, remove up to 99.9% fluoride, more than any other on the market. The range is wide and you can get the super affordable “mini waterman” (we travel with this everywhere!), jug or one of the larger benchtop units, depending on counter space and budget. The refill filters are reasonably priced. Some of the key features of the large benchtop options include:
– 13 stages of sterilising, filtration & activation, multi-stage cartridges contain:
– Sub-micron prefilters
– Silver-ionised activated coconut shell carbon,
– Ion exchange cation resin for 99.99% Fluoride removal
– Bio-organic coral mineral sands
– Silica sands
– Far infrared ceramics
– Bio ceramic Somelite™
– Magnets and other patented filter mediums.
My parents have the Southern Cross Pottery 10L Litre bench top water filter here pictured at home.
While filtering out all known contaminants, it leaves beneficial minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium in the drinking water, so you can enjoy maximum health benefits. The attractive, cost-effective design comes in a variety of styles so you can choose your favourite to brighten up your sink. Comes complete with the Fluoride Plus Filter which needs replacing every 12 months. The filter removes 99.9999% of Pathogenic Bacteria, Cysts, Sediment, Chloramines, Chlorine, Lead, 97% + Fluoride, Volatile Organic Components, Metals, Arsenic, Glyphosate and 99% of Nitrates.
So there you go. As with all things in the low tox life, it’s important not to panic, nor to believe you can ‘completely eradicate chlorine from your day to day’. Thirsty child at a cafe? Drink the tap water and appreciate it. No stress. Having a water filter at home and creating a barrier at swimming lessons and neutralising your bath are great, simple things to implement in the next couple of months, and the rest? Just go with the flow knowing your baseline at home is strong.
If you want to work on minimising nasties in every aspect of your day to day life, GO LOW TOX is for you – an instant-access course I’ve run since 2014 to help you reduce your toxic load in every day life across 22 topics. Check it out here!
Low Tox. Happy Us. Happy Planet
Extra reading if you fancy