Inhaling Chlorine in swimming pools can trigger asthma attacks, lung specialists in Italy were told yesterday.

Inhaling Chlorine in swimming pools can trigger asthma attacks, lung specialists in Italy were told yesterday.

The danger arises when swimmers breathe in the pool's chlorine molecules, since the chemical can cause inflammation of the airways.

Kai-Hakon Carlsen, professor at the Voksentoppen Children's Asthma and Allergy Centre, in Oslo, Norway, told colleagues at the world congress on lung diseases, held in Florence, that a survey of 29 top swimmers revealed that 14 were suffering from asthma-related symptoms. "In swimming pools, people can be exposed to doses close to [the] industrial ceiling," he said.

Swimming was not the only sporting activity posing a threat to human lungs. Separate studies revealed that athletes who trained strenuously, including marathon runners, cyclists and cross-country skiers, were also at risk, partly through inhaling cold air.

Following the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, a survey by the US Olympic committee found that 117 of 700 American athletes (nearly 17 per cent of the total) had reported suffering from asthma. The worst affected were cyclists, where the proportion rose to 50 per cent.

A particular risk occurredin winter sports due to the volume of cold air entering the lungs.

Dr Kjell Larsson, a Swedish specialist, reported that 33 skiers out of 47 whose cases he had studied, showed asthma-related symptoms or lowered lung capacity.

The deciding factor, according to Professor Carlsen, was intensive training over many years. The researchers found that just 7 per cent of younger cross-country skiers were likely to be affected by asthma. But by the time they were 30, more than one in five had symptoms.

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