The chlorine in your pool can cause more serious damage than red eyes, dry skin and faded swimwear.
According to the EPA, chlorine can irritate the respiratory system, especially in individuals that already suffer from allergies and asthma. And scientists are beginning to suspect that chlorinated water contains chemical compounds that become carcinogenic when they interact with organic matter in a pool, such as leaves, according to British environmental landscape architect and natural swimming pool advocate Michael Littlewood.
Chlorine also has environmental consequences: When you drain your pool, the chlorine that is meant to keep your pool sterile is toxic to aquatic animals and plants in local waterways.
But there are a number of innovative systems and products that can help you cut down on your pool’s chlorine content, to make your backyard oasis better for your health and easier on the environment.
1. Salt water pools
Salt water pools are a popular alternative to conventional chlorinated pools, but these pools are actually not free of the chemical: Salt water pools essentially produce their own chlorine from salt.
Salt water pool systems include a generator, which passes a low voltage electrical current through the pool water, converting the chloride ions in salt into chlorine to kill microorganisms and prevent algae and bacterial growth.
These types of pools offer some benefits over standard chlorine pools: You don’t have to buy, store or handle chlorine, and many salt water pool owners report a softer-feeling water than water from a chlorinated pool.
But salt water pools are not the most eco-friendly of chlorine pool alternatives: Their chlorine generators consume a lot of energy, and the wastewater, just like chlorinated pool water, poses a threat to the flora and fauna in local water bodies because of its high salt content.
In addition, if you’re particularly sensitive to chlorine, a salt water pool may not alleviate all your health complaints, since chlorine will still be present in the pool. You will also need to make sure you maintain proper water chemistry, including pH, to prevent mineral buildup, which can cause the salt-to-chlorine generator to fail.