We recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal (online) that touched on a few points related to chlorinated swimming pool water and its effects on a person’s eyes during and after a dip in the pool.
We all know that improperly balanced pool water can cause eye irritation due to a low/high pH, low/high alkalinity, and/or too high a chlorine count, but what about a properly balanced swimming pool? Does that water cause harm in any way?
According to the article,
- The human eye has a natural protective barrier over it that helps protect it from infection by bacteria, parasites, etc. Chlorinated water removes that thin layer temporarily.
- Swimming pools disinfected with chlorine may have the correct amount of chlorine in them to effectively ward off ‘bugs’, as the author called them, but that same chlorine loses some of its efficacy if the pH or alkalinity has drifted out of acceptable range.
- The amount of bacteria and other unwanted pool water contaminants introduced by a high bather load (aka: lots of people in the pool at one time) may temporarily overwhelm the chlorine concentration’s ability to neutralize threats to swimmers — especially their eyes whose protective tear layers have temporarily gotten washed away.
- Contact lens wearers may want to pay special attention to pool water water quality and possibly take extra steps to flush out their eyes after a swim. Putting lenses back in one’s eyes possibly without rinsing traces of pool water out first may allow infectious, or simply unwanted, bacteria and/or parasites to get trapped between a contact lens and a person’s eye… where it could breed, grow and basically cause problems.
- The good news? A properly sized and well-fitting set of goggles can really help minimize an eyeball’s exposure to tear film erasing chlorinated water and opportunistic ‘critters’ that sometimes lurk in pool water — like, for example (and we did not know this, by the way)… ‘pink eye’.
The article also mentioned something in passing: Carrying a pool water test kit with you to the pool. Sure you may look like a science geek or some sort of paranoid parent at the neighborhood pool, but if the water turns out to not possess the right chemicals to keep you and your family safe, well, we think a little embarrassment goes a long way!
Moral of the story?
Swimming pool water, even in the best circumstances, temporarily wipes away a vital protective barrier that our eyes rely upon to keep them ‘safe’. Therefore it stands to reason that we ought to make certain our pool water has the right balance of water chemistry (testing pool water helps with this!) and use properly fitting eye protection whenever we go for a swim!
Oh, and… one more thing before we go: At the beginning of each swimming season and each time a pool gets filled up or topped off with fresh water from a well or spigot, make sure to test the quality of the fill water for things like metals, hardness, alkalinity, pH, etc.
Why? Because just like in the world of computer programming, “Garbage in, garbage out!”
For your pool that means if you add water that has some water quality issues to begin with, then your pool water will have water quality issues, too.