A team of Belgian researchers, led by renowned toxicologist Alfred Bernard, made international headlines in 2009 with a report linking children who swim in chlorinated pools to a significantly increased likelihood of suffering from asthma and respiratory allergies. But now the Belgian Superior Health Council has issued its own scientific opinion developed by reviewing multiple similar studies. Its conclusion: "At this moment, there is insufficient evidence to link exposure to chlorinated compounds with the development of asthma to advise children against swimming."
The official report is available in Dutch and French languages through the council's website, but Euro Chlor WG (a Brussels-based association representing European chlor-alkali producers) translated the "Recommendations" section into English for wider use. Here is an excerpt from that translation:
The studies of Bernard and colleagues are valuable because they investigated the (scientifically plausible) toxic and pro-allergenic potential of chlorinated swimming pool environments. On the basis of their results, however, no final coherent conclusion can be drawn. In addition, the Bernard et al. findings were not confirmed by other researchers.
Employees working in swimming pools and elite swimmers (children and adults) may be at risk to develop a respiratory pathology, whatever the underlying mechanism may be.
A relationship between swimming pool attendance and childhood asthma has not been confirmed, but cannot yet be excluded. More information needs to be collected to reach a consensus.
The council claims that "longitudinal studies are required to better define the relationship between recreational swimming and asthma in children," and that "an equilibrium needs to be found between the potential risk for the development of asthma by the currently used disinfection methods on the one hand, and the proven negative consequences of infectious diseases by insufficient disinfection on the other hand."
For a the complete English translation, click here.