Whole Living Daily

Freak-Out Fridays: Do Chlorinated Pools Cause Cancer?

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Editor's note: Remember the good old days of blissful ignorance, when you could bite into a bratwurst without worrying about nitrates, shampoo your hair without checking the label for phthalates, and fearlessly flip pancakes without giving the nonstick pan the side-eye? Nowadays, being health-conscious ought to come with a warning label: Dilemmas Ahead.

We know, we know: The more you learn, the more you realize how many scary things threaten our health in this day and age. To help you sort it all out (and sleep better at night), we’re debuting a weekly column in which health experts will address your should-I-worry health concerns. Struggling with your own quandary? Send it to freakoutfridays@marthastewart.com.

Q: I want to start doing laps at the local gym, but I'm uneasy about dipping myself in all that chlorine.  Can it cause any long-term harm?

A: For generations, people have been swimming in chlorinated pools. And who could blame us—it’s great for exercise and relaxation! Unfortunately, there has been some recent concern with long-term harm due to chlorinating by-product exposure, and these concerns might make you think twice about your new workout routine. For example, risk for certain types of cancer (rectal, colon and bladder) are now being correlated to the consumption of chlorinated drinking water. The initial research suggests the incidence of cancer is 44 percent higher among those using chlorinated water.

The problem with chlorine is accumulation, as there is a limit to what we can physically tolerate. And in our modern society there are several ways we come in contact with it—swimming, drinking, bathing, cleaning, etc.

So, if your local gym isn’t interested in investing in a saltwater pool, my suggestion is to decrease your overall exposure as much as possible. A few things you can do:

  • After your swim or anytime you are exposed to chlorine, cleanse your body immediately, using organic or all-natural soaps and detergents, as these are healthier for your skin.
  • Consider a water purification system for your home. It will help to eliminate toxins before the water is used to cook, clean, and bathe. Individual water filters for sinks and baths are also an excellent way to ensure that you are protected against the harmful effects of chlorine exposure.
  • Always drink purified water.  I personally use and recommend a Berkey water filter.

Dr. Holly Lucille, a.k.a. “Dr. Holly,” is a nationally recognized health expert. She is a licensed naturopathic doctor and registered nurse, specializing in comprehensive health solutions using compassion and empowerment. Dr. Holly was nationally recognized on TIME’s Alt List “Top 100 Most Influential People” in 2007.

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