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Chloramines, commonly found in facilities that use water treated with chlorine, can cause eye irritation and breathing difficulties. People who are constantly around treated water are most at risk. This includes lifeguards, competitive swimmers, and water facility employees. Reducing the amount of sweat, sunscreen, makeup, and urine entering the water reduces chloramine exposure.

How workers are exposed

Chloramine can be generated wherever water is treated with chlorine. The most common areas are:

  • Swimming pools
  • Hot tubs
  • Water parks
  • Spas

When people are in chlorinated water, their sweat, makeup, and urine add nitrogen to it. The nitrogen reacts with chlorine to create dissolved chloramines. These are then released into the air when the water is disturbed. Lifeguards, swimmers, facility employees, and others who spend a lot of time near treated water will be most affected.

The risks

The severity of symptoms depends on the concentration of chloramines in the air. In higher concentrations, symptoms can develop within a couple of minutes of exposure. The most common results of chloramine exposure are:

  • Irritation of the eyes
  • Irritation of the upper respiratory tract, causing coughing and shortness of breath

Some research suggests that long-term exposure to chloramine gas can significantly decrease lung function and cause occupational asthma.

How to reduce the risks

To reduce the potential for injury or disease, you need to control the risks and hazards in your workplace.

The most effective way to manage the risk of exposure to chloramine gas is to eliminate the source of exposure. If that's not possible, there are other risk controls to use. When choosing risk controls, start by asking yourself the questions in the following steps, listed in order of effectiveness. See our resources for more information.

  1. 1

    Elimination or substitution

    Eliminating the hazard by substituting a safer process or material, where possible, is the most effective control. A question to consider:

    • Can an alternative water treatment system that generates less chloramine be used?
  2. 2

    Engineering controls

    Making physical modifications to facilities, equipment, and processes can reduce exposure. Some questions to consider:

    • Can ventilation be improved?
    • Can pool or spa maintenance be improved to reduce the levels of chloramine?
    • Can water be periodically diluted?
  3. 3

    Administrative controls

    These involve changing work practices and work policies. Providing awareness tools and training also count as administrative controls. All limit the risk of chloramine exposure. Some questions to consider:

    • Have you developed a written exposure control plan for chloramines?
    • Can signs be posted to remind patrons to shower before entering pools or hot tubs?
    • Can signs explaining exposure symptoms be posted?
    • Can written safe work procedures be posted?
    • Can monitoring of water chemistry be increased?