Disinfection of swimming pools with chlorine and derivatives: formation of organochlorinated and organobrominated compounds and exposure of pool personnel and swimmers


Chlorination of pool water leads to the forma-tion of many by-products, chloroform usually being the most abundant. The paper reports the results of a study evaluating exposure of bath-ers and pool employees to trihalomethanes (chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromo-chloromethane, bromoform) in four indoor swimming pools with chlorinated water. Chlo-roform concentrations in environmental air samples when the pool was in use (about 9 h), in the range 1-182 μg/m3, were greater near the pool than in the change rooms, passageways and offices. Chloroform concentrations in per-sonal air samples of pool employees were in the range 18-138 μg/m3. Urinary concentrations of chloroform averaged (geometric means) 0.123 and 0.165 μg/l and 0.404 and 0.342 μg/l prior and at the end of exposure during in water and out of water activities, respectively. The significant increase in urinary excretion of chloroform confirms that the source of the contaminant was pool water. Absorption of chloroform, estimated from airborne and water concentrations, was significantly correlated with delta chloroform (after/before exposure) and urinary concentra-tions of chloroform at the end of exposure. As chloroform is a toxic and possibly carcinogenic substance, these observations pose a problem principally for the general population of pool users.

Share and Cite:

Aprea, M. , Banchi, B. , Lunghini, L. , Pagliantini, M. , Peruzzi, A. and Sciarra, G. (2010) Disinfection of swimming pools with chlorine and derivatives: formation of organochlorinated and organobrominated compounds and exposure of pool personnel and swimmers. Natural Science, 2, 68-78. doi: 10.4236/ns.2010.22011.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] WHO (2006) Guidelines for safe recreational water en-vironments. Swimming pools and similar environments, World Health Organization, 2.
[2] Istituto Superiore di Sanità, (2007) Piscine ad uso natato-rio: aspetti igienico-sanitari e gestionali per l’appli- cazione della nuova normativa. Rapporti ISTISAN 07/11.
[3] ISPESL (2005) Quaderni per la salute e la sicurezza “Le piscine”. Osservatorio Nazionale Epidemiologico sugli ambienti di vita. Istituto Superiore Prevenzione e Sicurezza sul Lavoro.
[4] Gunkel, K. and Jessen, H-J. (1988) The problem of urea in bathing water. Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Hygiene, 34, 248-250.
[5] Erdinger, L., Kirsch, F. and Sonntag, H-G, (1997) Potas-sium as an indicator of anthropogenic contamination of swimming pool water. Zentralblatt für Hygiene und Umweltmedizin, 200(4), 297-308.
[6] WHO (2006) Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, first addendum to third edition. Recommendations, World Health Organization, 1.
[7] Evans, O., Cantú, R., Bahymer, T.D., Kryak, D.D. and Dufour, A.P. (2001) A pilot study to determine the water volume ingested by recreational swimmers. Paper pre-sented to 2001 Annual Meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis, Seattle, Washington, 2-5 December 2001.
[8] Meek, M.E., Beauchamp, R., Long, G., Moir, D., Turner, L. and Walker, M. (2002) Chloroform: exposure estima-tion, hazard characterization, and exposure-response analysis, J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev, 5(3), 283-334.
[9] International Agency for Research on Cancer (1999) IARC Monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risk to humans. Some chemicals that cause tumors of the kidney or urinary bladder in rodents and some other sub-stances, IARC Monographs, 73.
[10] American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hy-gienists (2007). Threshold limit values for chemical sub-stances and physical agents and biological exposure in-dices, ACGIH. Cincinnati OH, USA.
[11] Jovanovic, S., Wallner, T. and Gabrio, T. (1995) Final report on the research project “Presence of haloforms in pool water, air and in swimmers and lifeguards in out-door and indoor pools”. Stuttgart, Landesgesundheitsamt Baden-Württemberg.
[12] Sandel, B.B. (1990) Disinfection by-products in swim-ming pools and spas. Olin Corporation Research Center (Report CNHC-RR-90-154) (available from Arch Chem- ical, Charleston).
[13] Biziuk, M., Czerwinski, J. and Kozlowski, E. (1993) Identification and determination of organohalogen com-pounds in swimming pool water, Int J Environ Anal Chem, 46, 109-115.
[14] Aggazzotti, G., Fantuzzi, G., Righi, E., Tartoni, P.L., Cas-sinadri, T. and Predieri, G. (1993) Chloroform in alveolar air of individuals attending indoor swimming pools, Arch Environ Health, 48, 250-254.
[15] Aggazzotti, G., Fantuzzi, G., Righi, E. and Predieri, G. (1995) Environmental and biological monitoring of chloroform in indoor swimming pools, J Chromatogr A, 710(1), 181-190.
[16] Aggazzotti, G., Fantuzzi, G., Righi, E. and Predieri, G. (1998) Blood and breath analyses as biological indicators of exposure to trihalomethanes in indoor swimming pools, Sci Total Environ, 217 (1-2), 155-163.
[17] Copaken, J. (1990) Trihalomethanes: Is swimming pool water hazardous? In: Jolley RL, Condie LW, Johnson.
[18] Armstrong, D.W. and Golden, T. (1986) Determination of distribution and concentration of trihalomethanes in aquatic recreational and therapeutic facilities by elec-tron-capture GC, LC-GC, 4, 652-655.
[19] Eichelsd?rfer, D., Jandik, J. and Weil, L. (1981) Forma-tion and occurrence of organic halogenated compounds in swimming pool water. A.B. Archiv des Badewesens, 34, 167-172.
[20] Lahl, U., B?tjer, K., Duszeln, J.V., Gabel, B., Stachel, B. and Thiemann, W. (1981) Distribution and balance of volatile halogenated hydrocarbons in the water and air of covered swimming pools using chlorine for water disin-fection, Water Research, 15, 803-814.
[21] Ewers, H., Hajimiragha, H., Fischer, U., B?ttger, A. and Ante, R. (1987) Organic halogenated compounds in swimming pool waters, Forum St?dte-Hygiene, 38, 77-79.
[22] Puchert, W., Pr?sch, J., K?ppe, F-G. and Wagner, H. (1989) Occurrence of volatile halogenated hydrocarbons in bathing water. Acta Hydrochimica et Hydrobiologica, 17, 201-205.
[23] Puchert, W. (1994) Determination of volatile halogenated hydrocarbons in different environmental compartments as basis for the estimation of a possible pollution in West Pommerania. Dissertation, Bremen, University of Bre-men.
[24] Cammann, K., Hübner, K. (1995) Trihalomethane con-centrations in swimmers’ and bath attendants’ blood and urine after swimming or working in indoor swimming pools. Arch Environ Health, 50(1), 61–65.
[25] Sch?ssner, H., Koch, A. (1995) Investigations of trihalo-genmethane-concentrations in swimming pool water. Forum St?dte-Hygiene, 46, 354–357.
[26] Stottmeister, E. (1998) Disinfection by-products in Ger-man swimming pool waters. Paper Presented to the 2nd International Conference on Pool Water Quality and Treatment, 4 March 1998, School of Water Sciences, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK.
[27] Stottmeister, E. (1999) Occurrence of disinfection by- products in swimming pool waters. Umweltmedizinischer Informationsdienst, 2, 21–29.
[28] Erdinger, L., Kirsch, F., Hoppner, A., Sonntag, H.G. (1997) Haloforms in hot spring pools. Zentralblatt für Hygiene und Umweltmedizin, 200, 309–317.
[29] Erdinger, L., Kuhn, K.P., Kirsch, F., Feldhues, R., Frobel, T., Nohynek, B., Gabrio, T. (2004) Pathways of triha-lomethane uptake in swimming pools. International Journal of Hygiene Environmental Health, 207(6), 1–5.
[30] Kaas, P. and Rudiengaard, P. (1987) Toxicologic and epidemiologic aspects of organochlorine compounds in bathing water. Paper Presented to the 3rd Symposium on Problems of Swimming Pool Water Hygiene, Reinhards-brunn.
[31] Borsányi, M. (1998) THMs in Hungarian swimming pool waters. Budapest, National Institute of Environmental Health, Department of Water Hygiene (unpublished).
[32] Chu, H. and Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J. (2002) Distribution and determinants of trihalomethane concentrations in in-door swimming pools. Journal of Occupational Envi-ronmental Medicine, 59(4), 243–247.
[33] Lévesque, B., Ayotte, P., LeBlanc, A., Dewailly, E., Prud’Homme, D., Lavoie, R., Allaire, S., Levallois, P. (1994) Evaluation of dermal and respiratory chloroform exposure in humans. Environmental Health Perspectives, 102(12), 1082–1087.
[34] Fantuzzi, G., Righi, E., Predieri, G., Ceppelli, G., Gobba, F., Aggazzotti, G. (2001) Occupational exposure to triha-lomethanes in indoor swimming pools. Science of Total Environment, 264(3), 257–265.
[35] Str?hle, J., Sacre, C., Schwenk, M., Jovanovic, S., Gabrio, T., Lustig, B. (2000) [Risk assessment of exposure of swimmers to disinfection by-products formed in swim-ming pool water treatment. Final report on the research project of DVGW 10/95, Landesgesundheitsamt Ba-den-Württemberg, Stuttgart.
[36] Aggazzotti, G., Fantuzzi, G., Tartoni, P.L., Predieri, G. (1990) Plasma chloroform concentration in swimmers using indoor swimming pools. Archives of Environmental Health, 45A(3), 175–179.
[37] Kuo, H.W., Chiang, T.F., Lo, I.I., Lai, J.S., Chan, C.C., Wang, J.D. (1998). Estimates of cancer risk from chloro-form exposure during showering in Taiwan. Science of Total Environment, 218(1), 1-7.
[38] Du Bois, D. and Du Bois, E. (1916). A formula to esti-mate the approximate surface if height and weight be known. Clinical Calorimetry, tenth paper. Archives of International Medicine, 863-871.
[39] Brugnone, F., Perbellini, L., Giuliari, C., Cerpelloni, M., Soave, C. (1994) Blood and urine concentrations of chemical pollutants in the general population. Med Lav. 85(5), 370-389.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.