Is there a link between swimming and childhood asthma? Millions of dollars in potential liability and facility retrofits hang on this one question. And a key person leading the charge for answers is Dr. Judy LaKind.

She’s certainly well-qualified to do it. The president of LaKind Associates also is an adjunct associate professor at Penn State College of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. In addition, she’s a widely published health and environmental scientist in risk management and assessment, biomonitoring and analysis.

“Swimming is a popular and healthy exercise for children, and chemical disinfection of the pool water is vital,” LaKind says. “If we are improving public health by disinfecting the water but creating another risk in some other way, we need to understand that.”

An environmental consultant since 1988, she was one of a team of individuals instrumental in coordinating a groundbreaking expert panel for the “Advancing the Science: Childhood Asthma and Environmental Exposures at Swimming Pools” workshop, which occurred in Leuven, Belgium, in August 2007. LaKind was the workshop’s facilitator.

“In the past few years, there have been number of studies published that suggest there might be a link between childhood asthma and swimming,” LaKind says. “The workshop was the first step in creating open communication and dialogue by bringing a multidisciplinary team into being to make definitive determinations as to where there are and are not direct correlations, identifying the knowledge gaps, and developing further research questions, education and recommendations.”

In other words, LaKind and her colleagues aren’t ready to give an answer just yet. But this is one nonaquatics professional who is sure to be watched by industry insiders in the years to come.