Occurrence, origin, and toxicity of disinfection byproducts in chlorinated swimming pools: An overview


  • Manasfi Tarek
  • Coulomb Bruno
  • Boudenne Jean Luc


  • Human health effects
  • Body fluids
  • Personal care products
  • UV filter
  • Bromide-rich waters

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Disinfection treatments are critical to conserve the microbiological quality of swimming pool water and to prevent water-borne infections. The formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in swimming pools is an undesirable consequence resulting from reactions of disinfectants (e.g. chlorine) with organic and inorganic matter present in pool water, mainly brought by bathers. A considerable body of occurrence studies has identified several classes of DBPs in swimming pools with more than 100 compounds detected, mainly in chlorinated freshwater pools. Trihalomethanes (THMs), haloacetic acids (HAAs), haloacetaldehydes (HALs) are among the major DBPs in swimming pools. Other DBPs such as haloacetonitriles (HAN), haloamines, nitrosamines, and halobenzoquinones have also been detected. Researchers have been interested in identifying the precursors responsible for the formation of DBPs. In swimming pools, anthropogenic organic loads brought by swimmers increase the complexity of pool water chemistry. When human inputs (e.g. sweat, urine, hair, skin and personal care products) containing very diverse organic compounds are introduced to pools by swimmers, they react with chlorine resulting in the formation of complex mixtures of DBPs. The overwhelming majority of the total organic halide (TOX) content is still unknown in swimming pools. Exposure of swimmers to DBPs can take place through multiple routes, depending on the chemical properties of each DBP. Toxicological studies have shown that swimming pool water can be mutagenic with different potencies reported in different studies. Many DBPs have been shown to be genotoxic 2 and carcinogenic. DBPs were also shown to induce reproductive and neurotoxic adverse effects in animal studies. Epidemiologic studies in humans have shown that exposure to DBPs increases the risk of respiratory adverse effects and bladder cancer. Association between DBPs and other health effects are still inconclusive. Data gathered in the present review (occurrence, toxicity, and toxicological reference values) could be used in conducting chemical risk assessment studies in swimming pools.

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