Archive for the ‘Going Green’ Category

Regions Hospital Using Sphagnum Moss in Therapy Pool

September 25th, 2012

Regions Hospital, St. Paul, MN, is the first hospital in Minnesota to use Sphagnum moss to treat the water in its therapy pool.  The moss treatment system is part of HealthPartners Health Goals 2014.  Read more



December 1st, 2011

Swimming Performance and Disinfection Byproducts:  Biocides, Biofilm and PoolNaturally® Plus

By David Knighton MD

Co-Founder and CEO of Creative Water Solutions and PoolNaturally® Plus



Walk into a building with a pool and you can instantly tell it’s there by the smell.  No matter how big the building, small the pool, or robust the heating and ventilation system, that characteristic “chlorine” smell is there.  If you are like me, a few minutes of exposure to the smell will bring tightness to my chest, itching to my eyes, and after about 20 minutes a light headed feeling.  Go outside and it all goes away in about an hour.  Swim and it can take days to return to normal.  Competitively swim or swim daily and you probably get so used to the air you become acclimated to the irritation of disinfection byproducts (DBP).  In the past few years, a lot of research has defined what causes this smell, what effect it has on swimmers, and what can change the creation of DBP’s so the pool becomes a “you don’t know there is a pool until you see it” experience.  

How are DBP’s formed?

 DBP’s are formed when chlorine, bromine or any halide molecule used to kill bacteria in the water, combines with biologic molecules that contain carbon and nitrogen.  The most prevalent molecule in the swimming environment is urea from urine and sweat.  Urea undergoes chemical changes in the pool and combines with chlorine or bromine to form over 30 different DBP’s.  Some of these molecules stay in the water and others are volatile so they diffuse into the air above the water and eventually into the entire building.  The act of swimming actually increases the concentration of DBP’s by churning up the water and increasing the concentration of these molecules in the air. 

What Effects do DBP’s have on people?

We know a lot about the effect of one DBP – chloroform – since it was the most commonly used anesthetic for decades.  The fancy name for this class of DBP is trihalo-methane (THM).  There are many different THM’s with different effects on people, just like there are many different types of DBP’s that have different effects on people.  We will look at chloroform and trichloronitrate.

Chloroform inhaled at a concentration of 10,000 ppm puts you to sleep.  Prolonged exposure at this very high level will kill your liver, depress your heart function and kill you.  In human volunteers, exposure to 4,100 ppm causes serious disorientation and 1,000 ppm causes dizziness, nausea, fatigue and headaches.  Prolonged exposure to as little as 10 to 200 ppm can cause liver enlargement and effects on the central nervous system.  For a reference, we have measured THM concentrations in commercial indoor pools in the 2 – 3 ppm range. 

Application of chloroform to the skin causes redness of the eyes and itching of the skin.  One study of people exposed to low levels of chloroform in their drinking water showed a correlation between chloroform concentration and rectal and bladder cancer.  In fact, an international health agency classifies chloroform as a carcinogen for humans.

Other studies, especially from Europe, document the effect of trichloronitrate on swimmers.  They conclude that this DBP is related to reactive airway disease or asthma in people who swim frequently.  Another study shows that DBP’s are associated with changes in DNA in urinary bladder cells that correlate with an increased risk of cancer.

To summarize, DBP’s not only smell bad, they irritate your skin, eyes and lungs; cause central nervous system changes such as dizziness and headaches; cause fatigue; and with prolonged exposure are potential carcinogens.

How do DBP’s affect swimming performance?

Any athletic performance is determined by muscle contraction.  Muscle contraction is an energy consuming activity that is related to oxygenation of the blood and blood flow to and from the contracting muscle.  Oxygen is used along with blood delivered nutrients to produce energy so the muscle cells can contract and propel the swimmer through the water.  Oxygen is delivered to the blood through the lungs as we breathe.  Oxygen is then carried by our red blood cells to all tissues in our body including muscles, by blood flow.  Blood flow depends on our heart to pump the blood and arteries to carry that blood to our exercising muscles.

At rest, our muscles require very little blood flow and oxygen.  As we start to exercise and use our muscles to propel us through the water, they consume all the oxygen and nutrients in the area, then tell their arteries to dilate and send more blood.  That causes our hearts to beat faster to supply more blood for the dilated arteries and that eventually causes us to breathe faster to deliver more oxygen to our lungs.  A big part of athletic training, is to maximize this energy transport system from air to muscles.  The more we exercise, the better the system works.  The better the system works, the more we can exercise.

DBP’s affect performance in a number of ways.  First, the air just above the water is what a swimmer inhales during swimming.  That air has the highest concentration of DBP’s.  The amount of oxygen in air follows the rules of physics.  The higher the concentration of DBP’s, the fewer oxygen atoms in the same amount of air.  So the swimmer in a pool with high DBP’s needs to move more air in and out of their lungs to remove the same amount of oxygen as a swimmer in a pool with lower DBP’s.

DBP’s like trichloronitrate cause lung irritation and narrowing of the tubes that bring air into our lungs.  Because of the narrowing, less oxygen gets to the microscopic areas of our lungs where the delivery of oxygen to the blood occurs.  Therefore, we need to move more air to extract enough oxygen for our exercising muscles.  One result of this lung irritation is the use of drugs, called bronchodilators, that open up the airways and others, that control the inflammation caused by the irritating DBP’s.  This asthma is a significant problem in many competitive swimmers.

Like most diseases, some people are more sensitive to DBP’s than others. 
Those swimmers who are sensitive to DBP’s have to work harder to provide adequate energy for their contracting muscles than those who are less sensitive to DBP’s irritation.

Performance and conditioning is all about maximizing oxygen extraction from the air, blood flow to the muscles, and removal of waste products from the exercising muscle.  DBP’s play a significant role in oxygen concentration in the air; delivery of air to the blood, and pumping of blood to the muscles.  Along with the other health effects of chronic exposure to DBP’s and the uncomfortable irritation they cause, swimmers should do everything possible to minimize the concentration of DBP’s in their pools.

What can swimmers do?

Since urea is one source of nitrogen containing bio-molecules that form DBP’s, swimmers can reduce their formation by not urinating in the pool.  Sweat is another source of urea that cannot be easily controlled since training causes increased sweating.  I’ve talked to many competitive swimmers who tell me they don’t want to stop their training to go to the bathroom to urinate or that their coaches won’t let them take a break.  Changing this would help create a more healthful environment for every swimmer, coach, lifeguard, and spectator.

What can facilities can do?


To understand the role of ventilation in this problem, we need to remember that DBP’s are at their highest concentration on the surface of the water.  This is the boundary layer where there is little air movement.  Traditional ventilation brings outside air inside, warms it up or cools it off depending on the temperature, and then moves it through the building, eventually pushing the air back outside.  This is a very expensive process.  Moving more air from the outside and through the entire space of the natatorium doesn’t address the area of the pool where DBP’s are in their highest concentration.  Increasing the air movement at the surface of the pool does result in a decrease in the concentration of DBP’s.  Paddock Evacuator Company’s Chloramine Evacuation System achieves this by a system that moves the air across the boundary layer and moves it outside.

Water treatment

Water disinfection and formation of DBP’s is a classic “rock and a hard place” situation.  Chlorine and bromine are very effective and efficient killers of swimming (planktonic) bacteria and algae.  They accomplish this through their chemistry.  They are very reactive with other atoms and molecules.  This reactivity oxidizes proteins and sugars in the cell wall of bacteria and algae, but also reacts with carbon and nitrogen containing compounds to form DBP’s in the water and air.   It is the main way we control bacterial growth in most water systems.  Even treatment systems, such as salt pools, control bacterial growth with chlorine.  You don’t have to add the chemical, a reactor in the pool creates bio-reactive chlorine from the chloride ion in common salt.

When we started treating commercial pool water with PoolNaturally® Plus we found that the air quality in the pool area improved in a couple of days and the air in the entire facility was significantly improved after a week of treatment.  Over time our customers starting saying that the only way you know there is a pool in the building is to see the water.  Swimmers, coaches, lifeguards, and pool patrons all reported less eye, skin, hair, and lung irritation.  After a swim meet in one of our pools, many swimming teams demanded that their facility add PoolNaturally® Plus.

To measure the effect of PoolNaturally® Plus on DBP concentration, we did a study with a fitness club to measure the THM in the air above the pool surface and the water in their two indoor pools (75,000 and 86,000 gallons).  We measured levels weekly, for two weeks before PoolNaturally® Plus was introduced and then about every other week for 33 weeks. They have a high bather load and use chlorine for disinfection.  We measured a steep decline of THM in the water resulting in 75% reduction in 33 weeks.  In the air above the pool the chloroform concentration was decreased by 55%.  The air quality improved just like in our other indoor facilities.

How does PoolNaturally® Plus affect DBP production?

The quick answer is we don’t know.  We do have a hypothesis.  PoolNaturally® Plus is made from Sphagnum moss leaves.  In our laboratory, over the past 8 years, we have shown that PoolNaturally® Plus inhibits biofilm formation.  Biofilm is a slime like substance that protects bacteria that adhere to the pool or filter surface.  In fact, most bacteria prefer to adhere to a surface and cover themselves in biofilm, than to swim unprotected in the water where chlorine can kill them.  We think the unique environment inside the biofilm helps convert urea and other organic compounds into DBP’s.  We postulate that inhibiting biofilm reduces the production of DBP.  The product could also have a direct effect on the DBP produced in the pool.  We know the concentration is significantly decreased.  We don’t quite yet know how.

PoolNaturally® Plus and swimming performance

We know competitive swimmers like training in water conditioned with PoolNaturally® Plus.  We know that swimmers with asthma report that they don’t use their inhalers when they swim in outdoor or indoor pools where water is treated with PoolNaturally® Plus.  We also know that lifeguards and aquatic professionals report fewer respiratory problems working around pools with PoolNaturally® Plus.  We don’t know if their training and eventual performance is improved, and it will take time and study to know if the reactive airway disease, DNA changes and other health effects of DBP’s are improved.


  1. Use of chlorine and bromine as disinfectants in pools produces disinfection byproducts that have significant health and performance effects.
  2. DBP’s, such as chloroform, other THMs and trihalonitrates irritate people’s eyes, skin, lungs, and central nervous system.
  3. Pool water conditioned with PoolNaturally® Plus reduces the “chlorine smell” in treated pools and resulted in a 75% decrease in THM in commercial pool water and 55% reduction in natatorium air.
  4. Patrons of pools treated with PoolNaturally® Plus report significantly less eye, skin and lung irritation.


Articles about asthma and chlorine:

Chloroform and effects on humans:

THMs and bladder and colorectal cancer:

More about Paddock Evacuator Company’s Chloramine Evacuation System:

More about Creative Water Solutions’ PoolNaturally® Plus system:

Dramatic New Benefit of Sphagnum Moss Water Treatment Method Discovered

November 2nd, 2011

Creative Water Solutions ( — CWS) announced October 19th, 2011 that it has filed for a patent under the heading —Use of Moss to Reduce Disinfectant By-products in Water Treated with Disinfectants.  The patent will cover all of its products that use the moss-based water treatment, including PoolNaturally®, PoolNaturally® Plus, SpaNaturally®, and SpaNaturally® Plus.

After a 33-week scientific study of two large, commercial indoor swimming pools in the Twin Cities area, CWS measured the levels of DBPs and VOCs and the impacts of the resulting from the use of Sphagnum moss. The test found that its sphagnum moss product, PoolNaturally Plus, dramatically reduced DBP and VOC levels, reducing odor, decreasing chemical smells and their unpleasant side effects on swimmers, lifeguards, maintenance and other staff.

 DBPs are created in pool systems through the chemical reaction of the chlorine disinfectant with organic matter in a pool, or spa. Many DBPs are toxic compounds, such as trihalomethanes (THM) and halocetic acids, and are the main source of the odor and health issues associate with pool facilities and use.

“Our tests found significant DBP reductions and air quality improvements, clearly establishing another significant benefit of the PoolNaturally-Plus system.  THM’s, such as chloroform, are created in the water and then move into the air of a facility. The demonstrated reduction of THM’s in the pool water correlates nicely with the reduction of chloroform in the air and the subsequent increase in air quality” says Vance Fiegel, CWS’s Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder. “Our data shows that besides reducing the amount of chemicals needed to treat water (and lessening irritants to swimmers, maintenance time and corrosion of motors and liners) the moss is also providing measureable air quality benefits:

  • THM levels plummeted between 73-80% once the moss was introduced into the pools. 
  • Chloroform showed a 55% reduction in the air of the pool facility.

  According to Dr. David Knighton, MD, CWS President, CEO and co-founder, the scientific data reflects the anecdotal reports the company has consistently been receiving from management and staff at other indoor swimming pools.

 “We are very excited to discover yet another benefit of this miracle plant and innovative water conditioning agent,” Knighton notes. “Our customers at many college pools and those at indoor water parks like Chaos, located in Eau Claire, Wi., can corroborate our most recent scientific discoveries about air quality enhancement with the personal evaluations and experiences of those who work daily in an enclosed swimming environment.”

Knighton cited a representative case study recently done at Chaos with Barry Thompson, a retired Navy Master Chief who helped design the facility and currently is its chief operator:

·         At most water parks, chlorine disinfection by-products permeate the air at a park’s indoor and outdoor areas: “You can usually smell the heavily chlorinated water in the parking lot. At Chaos you don’t get that smell inside or outside — or on your clothes and in your hair after you leave,” Thompson says.

·         Lifeguards are reporting a dramatic reduction in headaches from chloramines and disinfection byproducts due to the reduced usage and the increased efficacy of chlorine to deal with bacteria producing agents and organic material in the water.

·         The lifeguards and other staff are reporting less absenteeism thanks to a more natural, less chemical work environment.

For more information — or to interview Vance Fiegel or Dr. Knighton — please contact Martin Keller, Media Savant Communications Co., 612-729-8585,

Creative Water Solutions Involved in Energy Efficient Makeover at Debbie Meyer Swim School

September 15th, 2011

Creative Water Solutions is proud to announce its involvement and support of the Debbie Meyer Swim School Makeover Project.

Check out the exciting makeover at the Debbie Meyer Swim School and all the various energy savings that can be achieved by applying current knowledge and the latest technologies to maintain superior water clarity and sanitation

Creative Water Solutions is Recognized by The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for Their Work with St. Paul Public Pools

August 14th, 2011

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will be awarding Creative Water Solutions for its work with the city of St. Paul and their public pools. With the help of Creative Water Solutions and its Sphagnum moss products, the city of St. Paul dramatically reduced chemical usage at all of their municipal pools. Creative Water Solutions’ Sphagnum moss product has been solely responsible for saving St. Paul over $70,000 by reducing both chemical usage and maintenance/labor hours.

The award will be given at the Minnesota State Fair on August 31, 2011 in the EcoExperience Building.

If you would like to learn more about Creative Water Solutions work with The City of St. Paul and the award, click on the video link.

Public Pools Green Iniative by TheMnPCA

According to Plymouth Magazine- Two Must-Try Green Products

July 15th, 2011

Creative Water Solutions  has been recognized by Plymouth Magazine for having two must-try green products.  The article features the city of Plymouth and the plethora of sustainable services, businesses and initiatives it has to offer. The six part series showcases the local green movement. Read more at Plymouth Magazine.

Local water park the first in the world to use a specific variety of moss to treat their water

June 21st, 2011

A local water park is said to be the only water park in the world using a revolutionary method to condition their water and it’s completely green.

Chaos water park in Eau Claire is using a fraction of the chemicals and chlorine they once used because PoolNaturally. A product made from Sphagnum moss that’s imported from New Zealand but the future of this water treatment system is a bit closer to home.

Click on the link for the full story: First water park in the world to use sphagnum moss to treat water

Living Green Expo at the Fairgrounds

April 13th, 2011

May 7 & 8 Creative Water Solutions and Recreation Aquatic Solutions will be at the Living Green Expo


Living a healthier, safer and more sustainable life can be easy, and it can save you money.

The Living Green Expo (May 7-8 at the State Fairgrounds) is the one place in Minnesota to learn about all the latest in products, services and information to help you live greener. The annual spring tradition is one of the largest and most successful green events of its kind, and it is the largest zero-waste event in the state.

The Living Green Expo offers something for everyone, including showcasing simple ways to protect the family and home from toxins, explore energy efficient and environmentally friendly alternatives, grow and eat better foods and protect our planet for future generations.

New this year, The Expo has an expanded layout, Friends School Plant Sale partnership, the first Green Wedding, an Eco Kids Parade, a Complete Streets in Action demonstration and Electric Vehicle Experience. Free Chinook Books given to the first 200 visitors each day. Secure bike storage is available. Metro Transit provides shuttle services at the Expo and free transportation to and from the Expo with the Go Greener Pass.

No matter where you are on the “green spectrum,” the Expo has something for you.

Go Greener: Tips for “going green” in your backyard

September 8th, 2010

greenideas2Cover up

covers prevent both water & chemical loss from evaporation

Reuse the water

use drained pool/spa water to irrigate your lawn (just remember don’t add any chemicals 3 days prior to draining)

Go solar-

by going large scale (direct solar panels) or small scale (accent lights) the devices will pay off when it comes time to pay the electric bill

Make it recycled-

Thinking of revamping the backyard? Look into recycled products: cabinets, patio furniture, and fencing are just a few of the products you can get from recycled material. They are low maintenance and made to last for a while

Lower temperature, more saving -

by lowering the temperature of your spa 3 degrees while it not being used can save you 5-10% of your spa heating cost