In California, there are many individuals who work at Water-Related Facilities.   With respect to this article, the Water-Related Facilities to be discussed are swimming pools, water parks, and hydrotherapy spas.

These facilities have been implicated as a source of either “new asthma” or an “aggravation of a pre-existing asthma condition.”   An “asthma-related injury” caused by work at such a facility would give rise to a workers’ compensation claim.   Such a claim would allow the Injured Worker to obtain monetary compensation in the form of both temporary and permanent disability, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation benefits, if indicated.

This article will discuss the nature of Water-Related Facilities, conditions which make these facilities susceptible to “water-related asthma injuries”, and the types of workers at such facilities that are at risk.

What Has Science Found Concerning Water-Related Facilities and Asthma?

“Clinicians need to be aware of the potential adverse effect that indoor swimming pools and water parks may have on both causing the onset of new asthma and aggravating pre-existing asthma. Attention to swimming pools and water parks as potential triggers for asthma may, for selected patients, be an important factor in asthma management.

The American College of Chest Physicians has developed a consensus statement for the diagnosis and management of work-related asthma that clinicians can refer to when evaluating adult patients with asthma35 . Weisel CP, Richardson SD, Nemery B, et al. Childhood asthma and environmental exposures at swimming pools: state of the science and research recommendations. Environ Health Perspect. 2009;117(4):500-507. doi:10.1289/ehp.11513

What Types of Workers are Susceptible to these Injuries?

Lifeguards and Pool Maintenance Workers have been implicated to be at risk for these injuries.

What Is Asthma?

Per the Centers for Disease Control, “Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs…Asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but you will have asthma attacks only when something bothers your lungs.”

“Occupational asthma occurs when someone who never had asthma develops it because he or she is exposed to something at work. This can happen if you develop an allergy to something at work such as mold or if you are exposed to irritants such as wood dust or chemicals at work over and over at lower levels or all at once at higher levels.” Supra.

What is It About Pools that Can Bring on Asthma?

The term commonly used with respect to Occupational Asthma, in this setting, is Disinfection By Products (DBPs.)

“[T]traditional chemical disinfection processes result in the formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs) (Aggazzotti and Predieri 1986; Aggazzotti et al. 1998; Beech et al. 1980; Chu and Nieuwenhuijsen 2002; Fantuzzi et al. 2001; Glauner et al. 2005; Judd and Jeffrey 1995; Kim et al. 2002; Li and Blatchley 2007; Weil et al. 1980; Weisel and Shepard 1994; Zwiener et al. 2007). The specific types and levels of DBPs formed depend on numerous factors, including the type and amount of disinfectant used, characteristics of the swimming pool and pool water, and swimmer hygiene (Zwiener et al. 2007).” Weisel CP, Richardson SD, Nemery B, et al. Childhood asthma and environmental exposures at swimming pools: state of the science and research recommendations. Environ Health Perspect. 2009;117(4):500-507. doi:10.1289/ehp.11513

One study reported that it was “nitrogrogen trichloride is a cause of occupational asthma. This should be considered when choosing chlorine-based disinfectants that are likely to come into contact with a nitrogen source. It should also be considered in anyone developing occupational asthma working at a swimming pool and is also a likely cause of asthma in those who swim in these pools.  To prevent further cases, much more attention should be paid to the quality of air in indoor swimming buildings, as well as t the care of the chlorine content of the water. Occupational asthma caused by chloramines in indoor swimming-pool air.  K.M. Thickett, J.S. McCoach, J.M. Gerber, S. Sadhra, P.S. Burge, European Respiratory Journal 2002 19:827-832, DOR: 10.1183/09031936.02.00232802

Does the Worker Need to Go In the Water Be at Risk for Injury?

No. Workers who do not go into pools are at risk as well.  Working at the swimming pool, but not going in the pool, may be a sufficient exposure. As noted above, it is an issue of air quality within the facilities that is a concern.

I Work at a Pool Facility and Am Having Lung Problems, What Should I Do?

It is recommended you seek medical attention, If you receive a diagnosis of asthma, you would consider filing a workers’ compensation claim.  It is recommended you consult with an attorney as well.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.


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