The recent Wall Street Journal article “Does Chlorine Affect Your Vision?” provides excellent advice to swimmers on avoiding inflammation and infections of the eye known as conjunctivitis. To elaborate a bit, conjunctivitis, also called “pink eye” can be caused by three main conditions: infections, allergies, and exposures to chemicals. Chlorinating swimming pool water goes a long way toward preventing conjunctivitis caused by bacterial and viral infections, and proper swimming pool chemistry optimizes swimmer eye, skin and respiratory comfort.
Good pool chemistry plays a key role in maintaining healthy pools for swimmers. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls chlorine and pH “the first defense against germs that can make swimmers sick.” In fact, when trace levels of chlorine are maintained in swimming pool water at the right pH, chlorine is on “guard duty” against a wide range of bacteria and viruses introduced into pools by swimmers that can cause a host of problems besides conjunctivitis, including gastrointestinal upset, swimmer’s ear and skin infections.
Allergic conjunctivitis occurs more commonly with individuals who already have seasonal allergies. Additionally, some people may be sensitive to some chemicals in swimming pool waters. Wearing swimming goggles is a good idea for both of these types of inflammation of the eye. For pool water in the pH range of 7.2 to 7.8, and free chlorine levels between 1 – 3 parts per million, both germ destruction and swimmer comfort are optimized. That’s why it is so important that pool managers monitor and maintain the pH and chlorine levels appropriately.