If you like to spend your summer days swimming in chlorinated pools, new research suggests you may be exposed to potentally dangerous chlorine by-products known as haloacetic acids (HAAs). Here's how you can reduce the risk while still enjoying the health benefits of swimming.

In new research announced last week, swimmers were found to have detectable levels of HAA in their urine within as little as 20 minutes of swimming. The study involved 49 adults and children who swam or exercised in an indoor and outdoor pool.

According to America's Environmental Protection Agency, HAAs have been linked to birth defects and cancer.

One way to reduce your risks is to be careful to not swallow pool water, since the researchers estimated that more than 90 percent of the HAA exposures were linked to ingesting pool water, rather than the chemicals being absorbed through the skin.

Also be sure to use a well-maintained pool. "Chlorine disinfects swimming pool water," says Mary Ostrowski, director of chlorine issues for the American Chemistry Council in Washington, D.C. in an interview with WebMD News. Well-managed pools should have concentrations that are less than what is found in drinking water, she says.

Test strips are commercially available that can measure chlorine and pH or acidity levels in pools. If readings do not fall within an acceptable range, alert the pool manager, Ostrowski recommends.

This study, the first to measure HAAs in swimmers, follows another last year that found that swimming in indoor chlorinated pools can potentially boost risks of cancers, but the risks can be reduced by swimming in pools with lower chlorine levels, noted the researchers. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Access the latest study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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