Chlorine in Swimming Pools and the Link to Asthma

My husband has asthma and while he hasn’t struggled seriously with it, I am hoping our children will not get it.  So far, I think our daughter is in the clear but time will tell whether or not our son has it.  I’ve done many things to reduce their risk including keeping harmful cleaning products out of our house, using organic dairy products, keeping pets out of our house and using allergen free products on our beds

I’ve also kept them out of chlorinated swimming pools.  Don’t worry, our kids aren’t deprived of summer fun in the water.  There have been plenty of pools and sprinklers, but we’ve limited their swimming in chlorinated pools to the occasional pool party or vacation pool. 

Several studies have found a link between chlorine in swimming pools and asthma in children.:

  •  Science Daily reported that a study in Norway found that children with mothers who had asthma or allergies have an increased risk of wheezing if the child takes swimming lessons before 6 months.
  • A study in Belgium found that teenagers who spent more than 100 hours swimming in chlorinated pools were up to six times more at risk of having asthma than other teens.
  • The European Respiratory Journal reportedthat children who start swimming ( in indoor OR outdoor pools ) before the age of 2 may be at increased risk of bronchiolitis, and those who developed the infection were also at increased risk of developing asthma or respiratory allergies by kindergarten.

 All that being said, 20% of the U.S. Olympic swim team have asthma and they are obviously talented athletes, despite having asthma.

Alternatives to Chlorinated Pools

In the U.S., chlorine treated pools has been the norm for a long time but that is slowing changing.  Ozone and UV treated pools, common in Europe, are slowly making their way across the pond.  There are a couple salt water pools in our city, as well.  While many of these alternatives do use chlorine, the chlorine used is a lot lower.  The best way to find out how pools are treating their water is to call and ask!  The best way to avoid chlorine is to visit the great outdoors where you can find fresh water swimming opportunities at the beach, in the river or at the lake.

If you have your own pool, there are several purification systems that market themselves as chlorine-free including the Ecosmarte Pool, Carefree Clearwater, and EClear.

Now that my daughter is 3, she’s in swimming lessons, in a chlorinated pool.  With her age and interest in water, I think it’s important for her to have swimming skills for safety, exercise and lifelong enjoyment.  From current research findings, it sounds like she is also past the point of highest risk.  We will likely keep our son out of chlorinated pools until he is 2 or 3 and then enroll him in swimming lessons, too.  Hopefully by that time, we will have the opportunity to put him in a lessons in a pool treated with chlorine alternatives.  

Do you have chlorine-free pools in your area?  Are you concerned about chlorine in your pool’s water and the link to asthma?

This is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival about Clean Water and Air Solutions  – an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.

 

Infant Oral Health

I recently visited our pediatric dentist with my 3 year old and was surprised to learn a few things I hadn’t heard about before regarding infant oral health.  I hope you find it helpful, too!  

  • Cavities are the most common chronic disease of childhood?  5x that of asthma or hay fever.
  • The AAP and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry are now encouraging parents to bring in their children when they turn 1 year oldfor homecare recommendations, feeding tips, sucking habits management and trauma prevention.
  • You can decrease the risk for early childhood cavities by minimizing saliva sharing activities like sharing cups and utensils between infants and other family members.
  • Many formulas contain sugar ( check our our review of organic formula )
  • Making formula with water that contains fluoride is NOT recommended – do you know if your water has fluoride?  Call your local water provider.
 

Lead in Drinking Water

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Lead is often a topic of concern in children’s toys and there are numerous recalls every year just to prove it. Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain and kidneys.  Research has linked lead with lowered IQ in kids and high blood pressure in adults.  During pregnancy, a baby receives lead from the mother’s bones which may affect brain development.

Toys are not the only source of lead contamination.   Water, paint, dust and even candy can contain lead.  Last spring I sent a sample of our standing water to the city water bureau for lead testing.  A standing water test uses the water that has been sitting in your pipes.  

The standing water test results returned telling us that we had 2 parts per billion of lead in our drinking water. Compared to the EPA Action level of 15 parts per billion, that seemed pretty safe.  However, on further review, I found that there is NO known level of lead is considered safe.  Particularly for pregnant moms and young children – we had both in the house.

Since we had young children, the water bureau offered to perform another test of our water but this time, we did it with running water.  A running water test uses water after the faucet has been turned on for two minutes.  The results?  Non-detected!

Since then, we have been vigilant about running the water until it’s very cold and we never use warm water for the baby bottle.  We just pop the cold water in a glass bottle in the micro for a few seconds to warm it up.

To reduce your family’s exposure to lead in water, follow these tips:

  • run your water for a minimum of 30 seconds up to 2 minutes until it becomes cold, if using for drinking or cooking
  • ONLY use fresh, cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula
  • use a water filter and make sure it reduces lead as not all filters do
  • buy low-lead plumbing fixtures
  • have your child’s pediatrician do a blood lead level test
  • have your water tested

To have your water tested, call your local water bureau to see if they perform testing.  For residents in the Portland, Oregon Metro area, FREE testing is offered by the water bureau – take them up on it.  If your water bureau doesn’t offer testing, the National Water Council will test it for $9.97.  The NWC will test for lead along with other common contaminants.

Remember, lead doesn’t only enter our bodies through water, it can also enter through lead-based paint and contaminated dust.  Houses built before 1978 are likely to have some lead-based paint.  According to the CDC, “approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children.”  If your house was built before 1978, make sure you stay away from any peeling paint and the phrase “don’t eat the paint chips” absolutely applies here.   If you are renovating a house built in this time period, the CDC recommends that pregnant women and children not be present.  Also, clean your children’s hands and toys frequently as they can get contaminated dust on them.  Finally, regularly wet mop floors and wet wipe all window components to remove any leaded dust.

 

Radon is the Leading Cause of Lung Cancer for Non-Smokers

January is National Radon Action Month, designated by the EPA, as radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer for smokers.  That’s approximately 20,000 deaths per year in the U.S. 

Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless, and colorless gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Because radon is a gas, it can enter homes through openings or cracks in the foundation. The radon gas itself decays into radioactive solids, called radon daughters. The radon daughters attach to dust particles in the air, and can be inhaled.

According to the EPA, over 8 million homes in the U.S. have dangerous levels of radon gas – could yours be one of them?   You cannot smell, taste or see radon so the EPA suggests that EVERY home regardless of age, location or type of construction be tested for radon gas. You can purchase a test inexpensively at a home improvement store or online for about $15.00.

I purchased our test in the fall and finally conducted it in early January.  It’s VERY simple, you basically hang it up in your house for 4-7 days while it collects the surrounding air particles and then mail it back in.  I got the test results within days.  The good news is that our home has a level of less than 0.3 pCi/L which is basically equivalent to the radon found in fresh air.

Purchase a radon test kit TODAY for your home and if you are planning to rent or purchase a new home, make sure you conduct a radon test as part of your inspection period.  If there IS radon, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker as there are ways to fix it.

 

Featured Blog: Seattle Mama Doc

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What I love about the Seattle Mama Doc blog is that Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is candid.    She’s (obviously from the title) both a mom and a doctor and shares personal and humorous stories while providing advice on various topics that moms are concerned with. 

Dr. Swanson says, “This blog caters to one principle I’ve learned along the way: Parents just want to do what is right. The desperate love we have for our children can shock us into good and sometimes bad decisions. I believe parents search for and sincerely desire simple answers to the How-What-Why–Who, the essence of doing right for their children. Often it’s not a simple, isolated situation, and/or one as complicated as it may feel. And, the abundance of online noise invokes fear in all of us. Over time, I hope to illuminate the reality that in pediatrics, doing less is often more. Prevention reigns. ”

While the blog is fairly new, I combed through past postings and found several topics that were totally relevant to me such as working and breastfeeding, loving number 2 just like number 1, and no Benadryl for the plane.

If you want frank advice from a doctor AND a mom, check out Seattle Mama Doc. I’ve added her to my daily reading list!

DO YOU BLOG?  Have your blog featured on Mommy Goes Green, for guidelines, read here.