Is There Good Chemistry in Your Pool?

Pool with inflatable tubeThis summer many of us will spend some “down time” cooling off in a pool. Whether the pool is in your backyard, your community, or your vacation spot, chemistry is at your service to help ensure that your pool experience is a healthy one. Within seconds of application, chlorine-based pool sanitizers destroy most of the waterborne germs that can cause diarrhea, swimmer’s ear and skin infections in swimmers—maladies that threaten to turn your “down time” into “down and out” time.

For most pools, the fundamental chemistry that protects swimmers from germs is maintained when the pool water pH and the chlorine level are kept within prescribed ranges. Pool operators are obliged to monitor and maintain pH between 7.2 and 7.8 and the “free chlorine1” level between 1 and 3 parts per million. That’s good chemistry for a swimming pool—a chemistry that optimizes waterborne germ destruction while keeping swimmers comfortable.
water by swimmers.

You Be the Pool Inspector!

As pool season begins once again, the Water Quality & Health Council is happy to make free pool test kits available to the public. According to a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in eight public pool inspections conducted in 13 states resulted in pools being closed immediately due to serious code violations. If that makes you wonder how your pool would fare, consider ordering a free test kit at Each kit includes an easy-to-use test strip to dip into the pool and a color chart to help determine the pool water pH and free chlorine level. The kits can be used at any pool that applies chlorine-based sanitizers, including saltwater pools.

If your pool’s chemistry is “off,” tell your pool operator. If you are not satisfied with his or her response and you don’t think that anything will be done to improve the chemistry of the pool, contact your local public health department.

Have a fantastic summer and remember to pack a trusty pool test kit when you go to the pool. Don’t get in the water unless there’s good chemistry in the pool.

Linda Golodner is President Emeritus of the National Consumers League and Vice Chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.

1 Free chlorine is technically defined as a combination of hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion that forms when chlorine-based sanitizers are added to pool water. Free chlorine destroys algae and most waterborne germs. It also reacts with small bits of organic debris and impurities, such as substances added to pool water by swimmers.