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Is the Pool Killing Your Thyroid?

Thyroid and Chlorine

Nothing seems safe anymore. No, this is not the beginning of a political stance or a commentary on the many tragedies we see in the news; instead it is a statement on the health risks that surround us every day. It seems like you can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by the countless videos or articles informing you that yet another product or activity you enjoy is somehow harming your body. While I hate to add another item to this list, it just has to be shared. In addition to the risks of sunscreen, household products, and furniture, one of your favorite summertime activities is harmful to your thyroid.

Swimming, while a great form of cardio exercise and a great choice for individuals with injuries, can further impair your thyroid function.

This isn’t a side effect of the activity itself, but rather a consequence of swimming in a chlorinated pool. Chlorine, like fluorine and bromine, is related to iodine (view the periodic table below) which causes it to compete with iodine and subsequently block iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. Iodine is a vital mineral when it comes to proper thyroid function so low levels can result in hypothyroidism (a low-functioning thyroid). Thankfully there are a few things you can do to lessen the side effects of chlorine.

Periodic Table

Because chlorine can be absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream, it is vital to prevent that or lessen the absorption if possible. Before jumping in that chlorine-filled pool, shower. This may seem slightly odd, but the oils on your skin actually increase absorption so it is important to remove those oils; however, your shower may also expose you to chlorine because the chemical is used in effort to purify tap water. There is a simple fix for this problem: buy a filter. You should be able to purchase them at your local hardware store and you can attach the filter to your shower head and replace it as directed. If you own the pool you’re jumping into and would like to avoid using harsh chemicals, but still be able to swim in your pool, there are a couple of options for you.

  • Saltwater pool – contrary to popular belief, saltwater pools aren’t entirely free of chlorine because salt chlorinators are used to convert salt crystals into chlorine gas. These pools are a slightly safer option, but still pose some risk.
  • Ozone filtered pool – similar to saltwater pools there may still be traces of chlorine in the pools; however, according to envronOzone, adding Ozone to your swimming pool can “prevent or reduce chloramines, prevent or reduce chlorine off-gassing, and inhibit the formation of chloro-organic byproducts.” This would seem to be a better option.

With chlorine being a harmful substance, why is it used? Well, simply put, chlorine gets the job done when it comes to cleaning. It sanitizes (kills both bacteria and germs), oxidizes (eliminates organic debris such as body oils and perspiration) and keeps algae under control.

Taking all of this into consideration with the additional information from a new study published in Pediatrics, which stated that children who frequented indoor swimming pools in their early years were more prone to developing respiratory conditions such as asthma and recurrent bronchitis as they aged compared to those that did not spend much time in indoor pools, it is recommended that, if possible, you try swimming in a lake, ocean or other natural body of water.