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Childhood asthma rise linked to indoor swimming
Detail: New research on childhood asthma, just published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, shows a strong correlation between the number of swimming pools in a country and the prevalence of asthma. The research team led by Alfred Bernard, professor of toxicology at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, reported that the incidence of childhood asthma was higher in areas with indoor pools. The “chlorine smell” in pools caused by the water insoluble trichloramine gas is to blame as it goes straight into the lungs when inhaled and damages the tissue there.

Childhood asthma is particularly prevalent in countries where there are enough pools (two or three pools for every 100,000 people) to ensure that children can swim at least once a week. The study concluded that asthma in 13-14 year olds rose by 2.73% for every indoor swimming pool among 100,000 of the population. The researchers also looked at the prevalence of asthma among six- to seven-year-olds. However, they found that even though asthma in the younger children rose with swimming pool availability, the increase was not as pronounced.

UK has a high incidence of childhood asthma (20% of children in the UK suffer from asthma). UK has many more indoor swimming pools as compared with other European countries where childhood asthma was also lower (4% of children in eastern European countries such as Latvia, Romania and Poland, 3% of children in Russia and 5% of children in Greece suffer from asthma). The researchers explain that high numbers of indoor pools is a major reason why asthma levels are high in parts of the UK, such as Scotland, with low pollution.

Based on the findings of this research, Prof. Bernard concluded that children who are susceptible to allergies should not be allowed to swim in pools which smell strongly of chlorine. Outdoor chlorinated pools are recommended over indoor ones as the gas is quickly dispersed.
Source: Based on a story by Sarah Hall, July 18, 2006, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/
Date: July 20 2006