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Alternative water treatments are available

By Marcelle Dibrell

According to the American Chemistry Council, chlorine is used in the majority of public swimming pools, and nine out of ten residential pools in the U.S.  Chlorine remains king in the pool and spa world because it is simply the most efficient, dependable, and least expensive option for both disinfection and oxidation of recreational water contaminants. 

But even at the top, there’s room for improvement, and over the years plenty of alternative sanitizers have been developed that attempt to resolve some of chlorine’s shortcomings. 

Despite the fact that chlorine can accomplish the fundamental goal of keeping pools and spas clean, it does have some drawbacks. One of chlorine’s pitfalls is the production of specific disinfection by-products. The compounds formed after chlorine has done its work are nuisance chemicals like chloramines that make the water smell bad and more difficult to treat. There are also those who believe some of these by-products may pose a health risk.

Halogenated disinfectants like chlorine and bromine can react with naturally occurring organic matter present in the water to form trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, chlorite and bromate. The EPA has made a careful study of possible dangers of these compounds, where the main concern lies in ingesting these by-products by drinking chemically treated water.

But as the public becomes increasingly sophisticated, fewer people like the thought of swimming with disinfection by-products either.  

Chlorine has another shortcoming: it is not especially effective against crypto-sporidium. According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, cryptosporidium sickens 750,000 people every year. Their most recent report indicated that the number of crypto outbreaks in treated recreational water is on the rise. Industry recommended chlorine concentrations of between 1 to 4 ppm free chlorine simply will not kill cryptosporidium.

It’s for these reasons that some consumers have turned to chlorine alternatives, seeking answers to some health questions. Is there some chemical or process that can prevent or reduce disinfection by-products? Is there some chemical or process that is more effective against disease-causing pathogens? What about alternatives for consumers who have sensitivity to chlorine? 

This issue of Service Industry News will explore the answers to some of these questions and more.

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