The presence of a high prevalence of bronchial hyperresponsiveness and asthma-like symptoms in swimmers has been recently reported. Chlorine, a strong oxidizing agent, is an important toxic gas that the swimmer can breath during swimming. Measurements of the chlorine concentration at the breathing level (<10 cm) were obtained randomly during five nonconsecutive days in four different swimming pool enclosures. The mean level in all the swimming pools was 0.42 ± 0.24 mg·m-3, far below the threshold limited value (TLV) of 1.45 mg·m-3 for the work places for a day of work (8 h). The TLV could be reached and even exceeded if we consider the total amount of chlorine that a swimmer inhales in a daily training session of 2 h (4-6 g) compared with a worker during 8 h at the TLV (4-7 g). Low correlation was observed with the number of swimmers in the swimming pool during the measurements (0.446) and other variables as the water surface area of the pool, volume of the enclosure, and the chlorine-additon system in the swimming pool. A low turnover rate of the air with an increase of chlorine levels through the day (P < 0.05) was observed in all pools. The concentration of chlorine in the microenvironment where the swimmer is breathing is below the TLV concentration limit, but nevertheless results in a high total volume of chlorine inhaled by the swimmers in a given practice session. The possible role of chlorine in producing respiratory symptoms in swimmers needs further investigation.
Physiology Department, Centre D'Alt Rendiment, Instituto Nacional de Salud e Higiene en el Trabajo; Unitat de Funció Pulmonar, Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau, Barcelona, SPAIN
Submitted for publication August 1994.
Accepted for publication March 1995.
Address for correspondence: Franchek Drobnic, M.D., Ph.D., Physiology Dept., Centre D'Alt Rendiment, P.O. Box 129, 08190 Sant Cugat del Vallés, Barcelona, Spain.