SWIMMING pools using chlorine are discriminating against people who cannot take a dip because it irritates their skin and worsens their asthma, according to a top Bradford doctor.
Dr Andrew Wright, a consultant at St Luke's Hospital and professor of dermatology at the University of Bradford, said pools should get rid of traditional cleaning chemicals such as chlorine and bromine and replace them instead with ozone filtration.
Ozone filtration is a system where a form of oxygen is pumped into the water, putting contaminants such as dead skin, urine and sweat in a suspended state so they can be easily removed by the standard water filtration process.
Dr Wright said he had spent the last 25 years trying to get leisure bosses and policy-makers to listen to his concerns about chlorine - and failed.
Even lobbying MPs and sitting on an all-party Parliamentary committee on skin has not brought about change
He said chlorine was a potent irritant for anyone who had eczema - meaning millions of Britons with it including many of his own patients in Bradford were stopped from enjoying a swim.
"Suffering with red, itchy, angry skin is difficult enough. Not being able to take a swim when a solution exists to this mounting problem is, quite simply, discrimination," he said.
More research was needed but studies have found the chlorine used in pools can increase a youngster's risk of asthma up to six-fold and that rates of hay fever and other types of allergies are also said to be increased, he added.
Dr Wright is also worried babies who swallow chlorinated water in the pool may be at particular risk of asthma because their lungs are still developing - and with soaring rates of obesity he says pool providers have asocial obligation to keep the population fit and healthy.
"We could resolve this seemingly unresolvable problem - keeping our pools both clean and eczema-friendly - if we junked traditional cleaning chemicals such as chlorine and bromine and replaced them instead with ozone filtration.
"This cleaning system is equally, if not more, effective and is much kinder to skin. The pungent smell you get when you walk into swimming pools is just chlorine and muck."
He says there are only about four pools in the whole country known to have ozone filtration schemes and believes it needs to be made law that the skin and asthma friendlier system is used in all new-build pools.
"Running the system is no more costly that the chlorine version,the obstacle is the cost of removing the old system to make way for the new.
"I would willingly meet and talk with anyone who is interested in supporting the cause."