Why were the Sydney Olympic Pools Sanitized with Ozone?

The issue of Ozone in the Olympic pools started at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. A group of German swimmers actually refused to enter one of the main event swimming pools. What could have persuaded this group of highly disciplined athletes to stage this protest at one of the most prestigious events in the world?

As it turns out, Germans are well aware of the health problems associated with a Chlorine-only swimming pool. Even the best maintained pools using Chlorine as the main sanitizer produce toxic byproducts that actually endanger human health.These toxic byproducts are caused by the slow degradation of chlorine when it comes in contact with human sweat, urine, dander, skin particles and other pollutants that enter your pool.

So, what was done to fix the problem in Atlanta? Ozone was added to the pool filtration system and the Games went on.

Four years later, the Australians made sure their pool was sanitized with Ozone. In fact, the Sydney pool was praised for its water clarity. World-class swimmers praise the Sydney pool as one of the fastest pools in the world. Part of it may be due to the fact that swimmers in that pool experience no red eye, rashes or other skin irritants associated with Chlorine-only pools.

Eye Irritations Indicate Health Problems

The Ozone system ensures much more than creature comforts. One of the byproducts of Chlorine reactions with organics in the pool is Chloroform! As more becomes known about the toxic effects of Chlorine in swimming pools, pool managers are looking for ways to provide the sanitation of Chlorine without the toxic side effects.

Envron’s Dr. Jeremey Nkunzimana relates the health hazards associated with “chlorine-only” swimming pools:
“The typical skin and eye irritations so common in Chlorine-only pools should be looked upon as a warning signal.”

The warning signal is that there is the presence of toxic chemicals formed in the pool as Chlorine degrades, he said.The byproducts of Chlorine in pool waters are a class of chemicals called chloro-organic byproducts including Trihalomethanes (THMs), chloroform and other toxic chemicals. These substances are known carcinogens, he said. And the irritation felt by swimmers is the body’s reaction to these toxic chemicals in the water.

Not only are these chemicals present in the water, but chlorinated byproducts are off-gassing into the pool area. Once again, the body reacts to these toxic chemicals through skin reactions, allergic reactions and other means such as coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks and other cardio/respiratory problems.

Ozone/Chlorine Advantages

By law, a residual of Chlorine must be maintained in the swimming pool (in most jurisdictions). Even German DIN standards for swimming pools (the highest water quality rating for pool water in the world), call for a chlorine residual. The big difference between most European pools and their North American counterparts is that Chlorine is the only sanitizer used. If Ozone is used as the main sanitizer, most of the toxic reactions with Chlorine can be avoided. In a pool where Chlorine becomes the residual sanitizer and Ozone becomes the main sanitizer, startling developments take place.

What Changes Can You Expect?

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are no longer the skin and eye reactions so common to chlorine-only pools. The elimination of reactions signals a major, fundamental change in the pool chemistry. The pool water’s toxicity has just been lowered by orders of magnitude.

The skin and eye reactions are actually the body’s signals that toxic conditions exist.

One of the other major changes you’ll notice is that there is no longer a chlorine smell in the air. This is another major change in the chemistry of the pool water.

This is a significant change as well. The chlorine off-gassing is releasing toxic chemicals into the air in the pool environment. Once again, the biggest common sense health indicator is that toxic reactions are alleviated.

In one case at a hotel pool Waterslide, an employee in the restaurant (which was located on the other side of the hotel) stopped having chronic headaches after the pool was Ozonated. Pool managers are rightfully concerned about liability issues when patrons and pool employees are exposed to known carcinogens in the workplace.

Infrastructure Benefits

Besides patron comfort and a healthier work atmosphere, the entire pool infrastructure will benefit. As Chlorine is caustic, it causes premature wear on pool equipment itself. Plastics and metals are both degraded by chlorine, which causes premature failure of equipment.The off-gassing of chlorine also causes a number of problems for pool engineers. Rusting steel structures and other wear problems in the pool area can be directly linked to chlorine off-gassing. Engineers may try to overcome this problem through high ventilation rates. But the caustic chlorine gases also cause premature wear of ventilation equipment.

The addition of Ozone not only reduces the amount of Chlorine that must be handled and put into use, it stops the off-gassing problems that contribute to premature wear of equipment.

Chloramine Reduction

After Ozone becomes the main pool sanitizer, managers will notice a reduction in Chloramines (bound chlorine) in the pool water as measured by test kits. This reduction in bound chlorine is another big indicator of a dramatic change in the pool chemistry of the water. Ozone actually puts the pool water into a constant state of “shock” that is usually only accomplished by super-chlorinating the pool.

Improved Disinfection

Disinfection in the pool will be improved dramatically. Numerous studies have proven Ozone to be a much faster disinfectant than Chlorine. In comparison, Ozone often acts in seconds compared to minutes for targeted test organisms in pool water. Ozone is the superior disinfectant, with the ability to kill even Chlorine-resistant pathogens.

You’ll Be in Good Company

Ozone systems are in use worldwide. Most European pools are Ozonated. And with good reason. As the benefits of Ozone continue to be studied, the advantages are obvious.

A Canary in a Coal Mine

This report was presented by Rip G. Rice, Ph.D., in his book “Ozone Treatment of Waters for Swimming Pools.”:

“Another interesting test was made at the “Lycee d’Enseignement Professionel” at Bains-les-Bains near Nancy, France, a school for swimming pool builders, installers and managers. Trout were put into their six demonstration swimming pools which are equipped with different sterilization devices including the Ozonator in question. In the pool where a famous product was used, the trout died after two hours, in the other pools the fishes were lame and could easily be removed (and saved) with a leaf rake. In the pool with the Ozonator the trout became so vivacious that they could not be caught with the rake, but had to be angled out later on.

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