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Here’s why you should always shower before getting into New West’s new pool

Keep It Fresh: That smell of chlorine at the local swimming pool? It’s a chemical byproduct that causes itchy skin, eye irritation and breathing irritation.

Showering before taking a dip in New West’s new indoor pool will improve its water quality – and will keep the air smelling fresh.

Today marks the opening of the aquatic facilities in təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre. The 50-metre pool, the leisure pool, the hot tubs, sauna, and steam room will officially open at the First Swim, taking place on Tuesday, May 14 at 4 p.m.

Corrinne Garrett, the city’s senior manager of recreation services and facilities, said təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre is the first facility in North America to include the inBlue filter system.

“It's a new drum-filtration system that should give us the best water quality for the least amount of electrical expenses,” she said. “It works in conjunction with the air-handling units to make sure that not only the water stays clean, and it's continuously cleaning. It's also cleaning our air; our air is going through a scrubber, a chlorine scrubber.”

According to Garrett, this system not only provides energy savings, but it also improves the aquatic centre’s air and water quality. To support the goal of providing a healthier experience for swimmers, she said the city has developed the Keep It Fresh campaign.

“It explains how personal behaviors can impact pool water and air quality,” she said.

While some people may think lifeguards are “big meanies” who want people to get wet before they get into the pools, Garrett said showering before getting into the pool is about making the water safe, clean, and fresh for everyone.

“If you can get those body oils and body wastes off of the body before you enter the pool, those body oils and body waste don't create chloramines,” Garrett explained. “The chloramines are what's in the air – and that's the bad chemical byproduct that causes itchy skin, eye irritation and breathing irritation.”

Rather than being “enforcers” of showering, Garrett said the city wants to educate pool goers about the importance of showering before going for a swim. It will do that in several ways, including through social media campaigns, Keep It Fresh ambassadors, and giveaways such as temporary tattoos and shower kits.

“I don't think people really know why you're supposed to shower,” Garrett said.

For folk who spent time at Canada Games Pool or have visited pool facilities across the Lower Mainland and have smelled “chlorine” – that isn’t what they’re smelling.

“Chlorine gets a really bad rap but it's not chlorine that you're smelling,” Garrett said. “It's actually the trichloramines.”

According to Garrett, skin cells, shampoos, soaps, makeup and other products react with chlorine to create trichloramines. She said the Keep It Fresh campaign aims to be a positive way to change behaviours that reduce chloramines in the facility.

After a lifetime in and around pools, Garrett said years of exposure to chloramines has impacted her health and her voice.

“Breathing in those chlorine byproducts can affect your vocal cords and your lungs,” she said. “I've been swimming since I was three and then I had a career as a lifeguard. So, whenever I get sick, I have chronic bronchitis. I've had pneumonia three times. It's always in my chest. And it changed my voice.”

Reducing chemicals

With the installation of the inBlue filter system at təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, Garrett said the city hopes it will be able to work with the Fraser Health Authority over time to allow the facility to reduce its reliance on disinfection chemicals, like chlorine. She said the city is currently required to use those chemicals in high concentrations in its swimming pools to maintain their disinfection properties.

“If we can stop the chloramine formation, then we can add less chlorine to our pool to have the disinfecting properties that we need,” she said. “Yes, it's kind of geeky, but it's pretty interesting.”