Reducing the Risk of Pool Chemical Accidents

The summer swim season is here, and unfortunately so are the pool chemical related health events. One event made national headlines in late June when about 70 people were taken to local hospitals and eight were hospitalized. However, many more of these events never make the headlines. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that as many as 5,200 emergency room visits per year are due to pool chemical–related injuries. Almost half of these injuries take place at a residence.

Pool chemicals help protect swimmers from bacteria and other germs that can lead to recreational water illnesses (RWIs). However injuries can occur in or out of the pool when critical safety rules for storing and using pool chemicals are ignored. Inhaling fumes when opening pool chemical containers, mixing pool chemicals, attempting to pre-dissolve pool chemicals, and splashing chemicals in the eyes can cause injuries.

Fortunately, most of these injuries can be prevented by following safe chemical storage and handling practices. Be sure to:

  • Read entire product labels before storing and using pool chemicals;
  • Dress for safety by wearing appropriate safety equipment (for example, safety goggles, gloves, and mask) before storing and using pool chemicals;
  • Lock chemicals up to protect people and animals;
  • Never mix chlorine products with each other, with acid, or with any other substance; and
  • Only pre-dissolve pool chemicals when directed by the product label
      – If product label directs pre-dissolving, add pool chemical to water; NEVER add water to pool chemical.

While CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program continues to focus on preventing RWI’s caused by contaminated water, the Program is stepping up its efforts to prevent injuries caused by pool chemicals. To help spread the word to pool operators and backyard pool owners alike, we have developed poster-sized check-lists, which pool owners and operators can read or download by visiting Healthy Swimming Posters. This is another important tool to promote healthy swimming, and with the generous financial support of the American Chemistry Council we are in the process of printing and laminating 35,000 copies of each poster in English and Spanish. Remember, healthy swimming is no accident!