Don't let junk science make you fear indoor swimming

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Papers published in Environmental Health Perspectives yesterday suggested that swimming in indoor pools could lead to cancer because of the “environmentally hazardous” chemicals used to disinfect the pools.

One study that examined 49 healthy adults who swam for 40 minutes in a chlorinated pool found they had elevated biomarkers that other studies have linked to future cancer risk. Another study examined the water in two indoor pools and found both contained chemicals “identified in experimental studies, animal studies, to be harmful,” study author Dr. Manolis Kogevinas tells WebMD. Those same chemicals can be found in tap water, he adds.

“Where is the evidence that swimming in a pool with chlorinated water increases anyone’s risk of any form of cancer?” asks Dr. Ross. “There is none. Chlorine is necessary for protection against microbial contamination — this has been proven time and again. These researchers — and this journal — clearly have an axe to grind against ‘chemicals.’”

ACSH research intern Susan Ingber explains, “I think swimmers might be frightened by the insinuation that if someone finds a ‘marker associated with cancer’ that it’s a death sentence, but that’s just not true. A biomarker represents a limited number of cellular pathways. Our cells can compensate in a number of ways to maintain homeostasis (equilibrium) and health.”