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(guest post by Korie Cantor)
The summer season is that time of the year when most Americans prepare to take a dip in the pool to beat the heat of the sun. Swimming pools bring along memories of the cool pool water, the exciting water games, the warmth of the sun, and the strong smell of chlorine.
Chlorine is most commonly used as a disinfectant for swimming pools, spas, and jacuzzis to protect swimmers from waterborne illnesses. The solution that is poured into the pool undergoes a chemical reaction and breaks down into hypochlorite ion (OCl-), hypochlorous acid (HOCl), and other compounds that attack the cell wall of these infectious microorganisms, exerting potent germicidal action.
However, chlorine has a distinctive unpleasant odor and causes certain types of skin rashes and red eyes in kids, swimmers and avid pool lovers. The sweat, urine, sunscreen lotions, and perfumes further react with chlorine to form other harmful by-products. Moreover, frequent exposure to chlorine fumes increases the risk of respiratory disorders, namely airway constriction and exercise-induced asthma. Consequently, failure to do a chlorine check for the level of the gas hovering on the surface of the pool water can pose to threat to the health of those using the pool.
Consequently, pool owners are looking for alternative methods to disinfect the pool while maintaining a swimmer-friendly environment. Here are five techniques to sanitize the swimming pools without any chlorine risks, keeping the pool water germ-free, safe, and sparkling at all times.
- Salt Sanitizers
Salt sanitizers (also referred to as saltwater chlorinators) produce a stable and potent form of chlorine through the electrolytic conversion of salt, eliminating the need to add a huge quantity of toxic chlorine tablets or liquid to the pool. This system is not completely chlorine-free, yet it is an effective way of reducing the toxic effects of dumping chlorine in the pool. Salt-water chlorinators continue to generate chlorine using table salt (sodium chloride) until it gets used up, offering a comfortable swimming environment for all. Thus, saltwater pools are different from the traditional chlorine pools as they are devoid of the harmful effects of chlorine.
The salt system is a part of the pool’s equipment. This technique produces gentler chlorine that oxidizes and kills bacteria, viruses, algae, and other microorganisms while making it safe and swimmer-friendly.
The salt sanitizer comprises two components, namely the cell and the control board. When the mild saline solution passes through the cell, the salt is converted to chloride ions through electrolysis. The control board enables pool owners to control the amount of chlorine being generated.
In order to keep the salt water chlorinators in good working condition, it is important to maintain a consistent level of salinity (between 2700 and 3900 ppm). Keep a check on the calcium levels and clean the cell at least once a season to reduce the scale buildup.
- Ultraviolet Light Sanitization
UV light sanitization is a powerful method of disinfecting the pool water as it uses short-wavelength UV light (UV-C) to disrupt the DNA of the harmful microorganisms, cysts and algae. This method is especially effective in destroying chlorine-resistant strains of viruses, bacteria and protozoa.
The water enters an enclosed chamber in the pool equipment where it is treated by the potent ultraviolet radiations. The concentrated electromagnetic rays destroy the infectious microorganisms and eliminate the production of chloramines (a by-product of chlorine) that cause allergies, irritation and respiratory disorders. The sanitized water is then circulated in the pool, evading the typical health risks of chlorine.
The UV sanitizer is effective, simple to install, and inexpensive and requires minimum maintenance, in comparison to chemical disinfection.
- Ozone Purification
The ozone purification method is three thousand times faster and 50 percent more potent than chlorine as a disinfectant. Ozone-treated water is extremely safe and gentle on the swimmers’ skin as ozone (O3 – three atoms of oxygen) easily converts into oxygen (O2) after the third reactive oxygen atom attaches itself to the cell wall of the bacteria, viruses, and other molecules that contribute to the unpleasant odor in the water.
Ozone purification also gets rid of metals such as iron, manganese, and calcium that scale the pool tiles and the underwater equipment.
However, ozone purification systems cannot sanitize the pool by themselves. In order to complete the process of disinfection, this technique must be complemented with chemical sanitizers, such as chlorine, non-chlorine shock or bromine. This method reduces the use of chlorine and other chemicals by up to 90 percent, sanitizing the pool water minus their detrimental side-effects.
- Copper Ionization and Non-Chemical Oxidation
Copper ionization is proving to be a safe and effective method to clean the swimming pool while eliminating the side-effects of chlorine. Copper is a potent anti-microbial that helps destroy algae (including black algae), bacteria and viruses, maintaining a healthy and a safe swimming environment for pool users.
Oxidation is achieved using electrolysis where free oxygen (O) and hydroxyl (OH) radicals are formed. These oxidizing agents eliminate the organic matter in the water. The ionizers in the equipment then release a precise quantity of copper and silver ions in the pool water, exerting a strong biocidal action on the harmful microorganisms. Unlike chlorine, copper ionization is a natural method to sanitize the pool water and does not cause skin and eye irritation and respiratory disorders.
- Non-Chlorine Chemical Alternatives
For pool owners seeking non-chlorine alternatives to sanitize the pool, bromine and biguanide are proven to be safer and more effective in comparison to chlorine.
Bromamine, a major by-product of bromine, attacks and kills bacteria faster and more effectively in comparison to chloramine. Moreover, unlike chloramine that tends to vaporize into toxic fumes, bromamine is less likely to gas off, reducing the risk of respiratory disorders in swimmers.
However, bromine is less stable in comparison to chlorine as it tends to degrade in the presence of strong sunlight. Consequently, bromine is an effective option for sanitizing indoor pools and spas.
Biguanide-based sanitizers are effective and more stable in comparison to bromine. Biguanide is a powerful oxidizer and microbe killer, inhibiting the growth of unwanted germs that cause waterborne infections.
However, biguanide-based sanitizers are incompatible with ozone and mineral ionizers as their levels and efficacy tend to fluctuate when these techniques are used in parallel. Nevertheless, since biguanide is devoid of the harmful effects of chlorine, it is evolving as an effective and safe method for sanitizing pools.
Owing to the increased incidence of chlorine-related health concerns, most pool owners understand the importance of minimizing their dependence on this chemical for disinfecting the pools. The above-mentioned techniques offer effective ways to sanitize swimming pools while avoiding the harmful effects of chlorine.