Pool Chemical Safety: How to Avoid Potential Poisonings

Pool chemical safety

A report that was released by the CDC last year covering pool chemical related injuries during the years between 2003-2012 raises some interesting questions: how safe are pool chemicals? How do I safely store them? What are the risks of having chemicals around?

In one year, approximately 4,246 people went to the emergency room with injuries related to pool chemicals, half of whom were minors. The most common diagnoses was poisoning, typically from inhalation of noxious gases and fumes, not necessarily from ingestion. One case in Minnesota saw seven children hospitalized after becoming poisoned by pool chemicals, all because of poor monitoring of water chemistry.  None of the 4,000+ poisonings that occurred during the year resulted in deaths.

But that doesn’t mean that pool chemical safety isn’t a serious issue. Not only occurring at large commercial pools, more than 1/3rd of all these pool chemical incidents took place at someone’s home. Most of them are happening in the summer with a whopping 40% occurring during the weekend when pools are more likely to be crowded and children are watched less closely.

Pool chemicals are an important part of keeping your pool safe, but any time you deal with chemicals, you deal with a substance that is potentially unstable. When used correctly, sanitizing products like bromine and chlorine eliminate germs that spread illnesses. When you’re immersed in water, you are exposed to whatever is in that water through inhalation, absorption through your skin, and even ingestion. It’s important that the water is sanitary.

But keeping around chemicals that can be mishandled can be risky.

The American Chemistry Council and Chlorine Institute got together to put together a training video that includes lots of helpful information for keeping your pool clean and the people around it safe. Included in the video are some of the following tips:

  • READ and follow the chemical manufacturers’ directions on the bottle and additional reading materials. I know it’s tempting to open the box and discard those pieces of paper, but it’s pertinent and relevant information.
  • DON’T just “wing it” when it comes to adding chemicals to your water. Use exact measurements and don’t use your pool or hot tub if the water chemistry seems suspect.C003006-CS20Q-2T
  • Store your chemicals properly. This means keeping them in a well-ventilated that is dry and secure, away from wandering children and curious pets.
  • Not all pool chemicals are compatible when stored together. Read all your warning labels and store accordingly.
  • NEVER mix acids with chlorine-based chemicals. Make sure you don’t cross-contaminate the two by using the same scoops, etc.
  • ALWAYS add chemicals to water, never add water to chemicals. That’s when toxic gas is produced.
  • Don’t worry about looking silly—wear goggles and plastic gloves when you have to handle pool chemicals.
  • Watch small children while they swim. Whether it’s to make sure they don’t get into the pool chemicals or watching to see if any changes in their behavior may signify a poisoning, it’s important to provide quality supervision.
  • SHARE this kind of information. I know it’s not swim season in all parts of the country right now, but pool chemical safety is important. It’s never too early, but it can sometimes be too late. Information is power! Pool chemical-associated health events are PREVENTABLE.
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