Study Examines Worker Exposure to Disinfection Byproducts at Indoor Pools

Published January 20, 2016

A new study published by Quebec-based research organization IRSST assesses worker exposure to disinfection byproducts at indoor swimming pools in the province. According to IRSST, chlorination disinfection byproducts, which result from chemical reactions between chlorine added to pool water and organic or nitrogenous matter that is naturally present or introduced by swimmers, have potentially serious toxic properties even in low quantities. Researchers documented environmental contamination levels in the water and air at swimming pools, and biological contamination in workers’ urine and exhaled air.

IRSST states that environmental disinfection byproduct contamination levels at the 41 pools visited during the study were generally relatively high compared to standards and benchmark values from other countries, and “extremely variable” from one pool to the next, both quantitatively and in terms of speciation. The results pointed to a “relatively atypical presence of brominated compounds,” according to the report. Researchers also found disinfection byproduct contamination in the biological matrices they examined, which “clearly [reflects] previous environmental exposure” of workers.

“Until the real risks of [disinfection byproducts] can be better identified, we recommend putting into practice actions that will minimize exposure, mainly through reducing their formation or facilitating their elimination,” the report reads. “Better control of this undesirable chemical pollution as a precautionary measure would provide swimming pool workers, and more broadly, the public frequenting these facilities, with a healthier and safer environment.”

The full report is available on IRSST’s website.

For more information on IRSST, visit the organization’s home page.