Two more incompatible chemical incidents at swimming pools were reported today. I managed swimming pools during college so I used to find these incidents humorous. After 30 years of seeing the same mistakes repeated again and again, the humor has slowly dissipated like a cloud of chlorine gas.
The incidents typically fall into one of three categories:
1) Hypochlorite (bleach, pool "chlorine" solution, solid calcium hypochlorite) plus acid yields chlorine gas;
2) Hypochlorite plus nitrogen compounds (ammonia, many cleaning products) yields "unstable or explosive N-chloro compounds" according to Bretherick 4th Edition; or
3) Solid calcium hypochlorite ("HTH") plus oxidizable organic materials yields exothermic reaction / fire.
To provide context for the scope of the problem, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 10.4 million residential and 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States. Aquaticnet.com estimates that there are an additional 5.2 million residential hot tubs. Consequently, millions of people routinely handle potentially dangerous pool chemicals. Additional millions of people use chlorine bleach for laundry, cleaning, and laboratory disinfection.
What can be done to reduce the number of hypochlorite incidents? Can swimming pool staff, often high school and college-aged, be reliably trained to work safely with hazardous chemicals? What about the millions of homeowners with pools and hot tubs in the back yard? Can the chemical hazards be reduced or engineered out of the water disinfection process? Can labeling be improved to decrease the number of incompatible chemical incidents? How many neighborhood swimming pools are equipped with an eyewash station?
I would love to hear ideas from the group!
The CDC does have a helpful web page on "Recommendations for Preventing Pool Chemical-Associated Injuries", but I wonder how many swimming pool operators (including homeowners) have read this page?
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