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Keep kids swimming says Campaign

In response to the recent study carried out regarding a link between childhood asthma and chlorine, the National Asthma Campaign have responded with the following article:

Research suggesting childhood asthma is caused by swimming pool chemicals is not conclusive, said the National Asthma Campaign's chief medical adviser, Professor Martyn Partridge. He welcomed the study but stressed that swimming is a healthy form of exercise for children with asthma and parents should not keep their kids away from the pool.

Researchers in Belgium measured key lung proteins linked with cell damage in 226 primary school children who had swum regularly in chlorinated pools from an early age. They found that those who had swum most frequently had the highest levels of lung damage, in some cases equivalent to people who smoke regularly.

The problem, say the researchers, is caused when chlorine reacts with organic matter, such as sweat or urine, releasing into the air a chemical compound, nitrogen trichloride. This powerful irritant is then inhaled by swimmers, and even by people sitting around the pool.

Lead researcher Dr Alfred Barnard, at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, suggested that exposure to the gas could increase the risk of children developing asthma, and that swimming pools should use non-chlorine based disinfectants and develop more stringent water and air quality control measures. However, he acknowledged that further research was needed.

Professor Martyn Partridge said: 'This is an interesting study, and exposure of any child to a chemical which may damage the airways is clearly a matter of concern and requires further investigation.' However, he warned: 'Great care must be taken in interpreting such associations and it is unlikely that swimming, at least by itself, could really be the cause for the increase in asthma.’

Kate Webb, the National Asthma Campaign's senior policy and information officer agreed: 'We don't know for certain what has caused a rise in the prevalence of asthma, but research to date suggests that it is likely to be a result of the interaction of many factors, including family history, lifestyle and other environmental influences.'

Professor Partridge concluded: 'While we welcome research such as this, much more work needs to be done in this field before we can draw any conclusions and take action to turn off the epidemic of asthma.'

Commonwealth champion swimmer Karen Pickering and 100m breaststroke Olympic gold medallist Adrian Moorhouse both had asthma as children and found that swimming increased their lung strength and improved their asthma symptoms.

The National Asthma Campaign web site provides further information on research and treatment of asthma.