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Strange Ways to Get Sick

When it's time to leave the beach and return to the indoor pool, here's something you need to know: Swimming in indoor chlorinated pools may induce DNA damage that may lead to cancer as well as respiratory effects, but the positive health effects of swimming can be maintained by reducing pool levels of the chemicals behind these potential health risks (something you can't do if you swim in a public indoor pool, such as one at the "Y").

DBPs, the cause of this DNA damage, form in pool water from reactions between disinfectants such as chlorine and organic matter that is either present naturally or is introduced by swimmers, such as sweat, skin cells, and urine. Previous studies have found an association between exposure to DBPs in drinking water and risk of bladder cancer, and one such study has found this association for dermal/inhalational exposure such as occurs during showering, bathing, or swimming. Evidence of these effects were seen in 49 healthy adults after they swam for 40 minutes in a chlorinated pool.

Since we all need to maintain our exercise regimens, it might be a good idea to get together with a group of swimmers and ask your club to go easy on the chemicals.If you can get sick while trying to be healthy, what are other strange ways you can come down with a disease? One of the strangest ways ever reported occurred in 1999, in the town of Alcoi, which is located in the mountains near the Mediterranean coast of Spain. People started coming down with Legionnaire's Disease (which is often caught in strange ways) and despite testing the water supplies, nobody could figure out why this was happening.

Investigators did what police detectives do: They compared the places where patients had been during the weeks before they became sick and found out which locations were the same. To their surprise, they discovered that they had all visited a part of town where road paving was taking place. One of the machines in use there was a milling machine that ground up old asphalt, spraying water out of a 528 gallon tank to settle the dust. The water in this machine did not come from the municipal water supply, but directly from a spring, and so was unchlorinated and untreated--and infected with the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's Disease. In LiveScience.com, Wynne Parry quotes investigator Lauri Hicks as saying, "I believe this is the first article to implicate an asphalt paving machine. However, there are a number of potential sources for Legionnaire's disease that probably haven't been well described."

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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