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Aug 16, 2012 by APRIL McCARTHY
What's Wrong With This Picture? Splash Pads May Be Refreshing But Also Deadly

What's wrong with this picture?
Children are patiently waiting until the splash pad they are about to immerse themselves in is thoroughly chlorinated by a city worker in a hazard materials (hazmat) suit. Even parents seem oblivious to what is actually going on here. Splash pads have regularly scheduled chlorine applications toxic enough to require city workers to where hazmat suits, yet perfectly fine for children to expose their entire bodies to from head to toe. So the answer to what's wrong with this picture is "absolutely everything."

If you're parent and you've taken your kids to a splash pad, you may have run into one of these chlorine applications, which takes place at regular intervals throughout the day. If you haven't seen it, you likely haven't stayed long enough, but it's now a requirement at all city splash pads including recreational and commerical. My question is, how do people justify that it's acceptable for a city worker to wear a full hazmat suit and rubber boots for a toxic chlorine application, yet it's not a problem for children to immerse themselves in the same water just ten minutes later, which is the acceptable time frame deemed safe by city regulations?

According to city officials, the chlorine vaporizes and thus multiple applications throughout the day are necessary to ensure the water is sanitized. So it's ok for the water to be chemically treated to prevent children from exposure to e.coli bacteria, and yet it's also ok for children to be exposed to a concentrated toxic carcinogen? Where is the logic in that?

We should all be approaching city officials and questioning this ridiculous practice of chlorination. If a child is swimming in small quarters in a lake, and there is a contaminant, do we chlorinate that portion of the lake as well? Do you see how ridiculous this process is? The benefits versus the risks are never weighed in the equations that lawmakers wield in front of the public.

Scientists have known for decades that along with the good that comes with disinfecting water with chlorine, chemicals called disinfection byproducts can also be formed when chlorine reacts with organic substances like human skin and residues from body care products.

Since the early 1900's chlorine has been added to our water to get rid of bacteria. For over 25 years researchers have been looking into chlorine and the by-products that chlorinated water produces. While most studies have concentrated on drinking water, more and more studies are pointing to the dangers of swimming and showering with water that is highly chlorinated. Splash pads would fall under this category.

Why is absorbing chlorine through the skin thought to be so dangerous? When you swallow water, you can count on the liver to filter out many toxins- but when something gets absorbed through your skin, it goes straight into the circulatory system.

Scientists have recently concluded that Trihalomethanes (THMs) -- by-products of chlorinated water -- are absorbed through the skin and accumulate in the bladder. THMs have long been suspected of increasing the risk of bladder cancer. Now, it seems suspicions are being confirmed. What's more, Dr. Christina Villenueva, a leading researcher in chlorine exposure, says that "Inhaling or absorbing THMs may lead to a higher concentration in target organs, such as the kidney, bladder and colon."

The worst part is that scientists know very well that when THM is absorbed through the skin or lungs, it may have a more powerful carcinogenic effect because it does not undergo detoxification via the liver.

So why do we continue this toxic and assumed cleansing of our pools? Because the public is not asking enough questions and frankly does not have enough information to challenge city officials. Well I'm here to tell you that there is enough information that validates the toxic nature of chlorination whether via drinking or bathing water.

Especially when there are other safer methods of sanitizing water such as salt, there is no excuse for this continued ignorance practiced by city officials who claim to have the best interests of children's health as their priority. Look at the picture again and tell me whose best interests these actions serve?

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

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