By Jim McCloskey
The three most recent editions of WaterShapes have carried trailblazing articles by John Cohen on his quest to define and develop a toxin-free approach to swimming pool and spa water. I offered no comment when the series started, basically because the articles had to stand straight and tall on their own – but also because I wanted the complete set of documents to be available before I registered my own thoughts on the subject.
Through the past 20 years, we at WaterShapes have encouraged just the sort of systematic commitment to high-functioning water quality that Cohen has pursued on his own for more than 30 years. We’ve published several articles on natural swimming pools and bog-filtration systems, and I particularly recall a feature on an ultraviolet-based system developed by Randy Beard of Pure Water Pools.
We’ve also covered numerous projects in which designers and/or builders have kept an eye on cutting levels of chemical usage in their pools and spas. These have generally been one-off systems, however, developed in response to the specific needs of specific clients. And for the most part, they’ve been aimed at reducing levels of the use of conventional chemicals in traditional, chlorine-based systems.
But John Cohen has always looked at these issues from a grander, more holistic perspective than most of us ever did. Not only does he want to deliver toxin-free pool water to every one of his clients: Through these three articles, he’s clearly hoping to persuade others to take up the cause and join him in reshaping the way the industry looks at treatment of all water that comes into contact with bathers.
It’s my strong belief that what he’s suggesting has a good chance of becoming full-blown, industry-wide reality someday, and here’s why: While his methodology cuts certain mainline chemical manufacturers out of the picture, it also opens the door to the involvement of equipment manufacturers on several different levels, inviting them to join a race to develop products that function within the parameters of the integrated arrays he’s cobbled together on his own.
And keep this in mind, too: The concept of non-toxicity resonates among consumers today in ways it didn’t even a short while ago, mainly because of extensive, detailed media coverage of various contaminants being found in pool and spa water – a gathering of toxins that no level of chlorine, bromine or straight filtration will ever reckon with to the required degree.
Remember all those headlines about urine levels in commercial pools? Remember the stories about the discovery of traces of all sorts of pharmaceuticals in their water? Remember the coverage of sanitization byproducts – contaminants few of us had ever taken seriously before? And what about the reports on hot-tub lung, Legionnaire’s disease and cryptosporidium? To paraphrase Cohen from Part 3 of his series, it’s easy to see pools and spas as chemical swamps, but too few of us have been seeing them as potentially hostile chemical swamps.
I’ve known John Cohen for many years now, and the passion guiding his crusade to remove toxins from pools and spas is both deep and, I think, laudable. It must be frustrating, daunting work, because he knows he’s after a moving target and has to deal with new morsels of information emerging from the scientific community almost daily that make him double back and evaluate both the efficiency and efficacy of his equipment arrays and his approaches to an ever-growing cast of observed contaminants and toxins.
When I first met him, he scared me a bit because he moved so rapidly from concept to concept that it was easy to think he was someone to humor rather than someone worthy of joining on the sort of game-changing adventure he’s defined. He may be a lone voice in the wilderness at this point, but I’m convinced that he’s onto something: The toxin-free concepts he’s advocating already make sense to his own clients, after all, so the rest of us need to get ready.
I commend his generosity in asking us along on his journey: He’s clearing a path to the future, and it’s coming at us rapidly.