Plant a Popular Alternative to Chlorine in Pools

by Louisa May

SwimmingIs chlorine in swimming pools hazardous to your health?

Chlorine is commonly used in swimming pools to provide disinfection in the water, but it’s a known respiratory irritant to mucous membranes and lungs.

There are now healthy alternatives, thanks in part to Dr. David Knighton, MD. He’s a vascular trauma surgeon and also co-founder and chairman of the board at Creative Water Solutions (CWS), a small company in Plymouth, Minnesota that is growing fast.

In 2006, he and his partner, microbiologist Vance Fiegel, introduced SpaNaturally, a plant-based water filtering product for home spas and hot tubs. Now,they’ve gone bigger. PoolNaturally is CWS’s new product for residential swimming pools.

This chlorine alternative is totally renewable, hasn’t been processed, and when you‘re done using it you can put it in your garden. What is it?

Moss, sphagnum moss, commonly called peat moss. “The answer to these problems is almost always in nature. You just have to look at them and figure it out,” said Dr. Knighton.

His experiments began with a paint strainer bag from Home Depot and a handful of moss. He put the moss in the bag and put it in his biofilm-coated swimming pool. (Biofilm is that slimy coating you see on the tiles around a hot tub or swimming pool.) Ten days later it cleaned up. “I was amazed.”

That was the beginning of the earth friendly kits that CWS offers pool and spa owners today. “This is like a tea bag that’s filled with moss from New Zealand,” he explains.These doughnut shaped filter packets are now being used in pools and spas around the country. His company,CWS, gets its moss from New Zealand where there is a huge moss harvesting industry. “The moss is sterilized so there’s no question of putting anything in your pool.”

People change the filters once a month, and the filters are reasonably priced. The monthly cost of spa filters is about $20.00, and for pool filters between $30.00 and $60.00, depending on the size of the pool.

Dr. Knighton first got the idea for treating water with moss after reading a magazine article about this particular kind of moss being used by doctors to treat soldiers’ wounds during World War I before the use of antibiotics. Sphagnum moss is absorptive and extremely acidic, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi. Sphagnum wound dressings are three to four times more absorbent than cotton equivalents, and they react chemically with proteins of all kinds. This reactivity immobilizes bacteria cells that are created by invasive pathogens. Some species can hold twenty times their dry weight in water. Dr. Knighton is still amazed by this plant’s properties and sees many more applications for sphagnum moss.

Creative Water Solutions founders are looking ahead and hope to to develop products to condition water in home drinking water systems, aquariums, fountains, and even koi ponds. If you’d like to learn more, go to

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