Pool Safety Part 2: Preventable Pool Chemical Injuries

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Thousands Sent to Emergency Room by Preventable Pool Chemical Injuries

The CDC recently released a study which found that injuries from pool chemicals led to nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012. Nearly half of these preventable injuries were in children under 18 and more than a third occurred at a private home. The most common reason for the ER visit was poisoning, which usually happens when someone inhales chemicals such as chlorine. Pool chemical injuries were most common during the summer swim season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and almost half occurred on weekends.

The study analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). NEISS captures data on injuries related to consumer products from about 100 hospital emergency departments nationwide. The NEISS data can then be used to calculate national estimates.

Part of the problem  is that people forget that commonly used chemicals such as chlorine can be dangerous if not handled correctly. Chlorine has been used as a water disinfectant since the 1700s when it was used to clean the water supply after cholera outbreaks.   The commonality of chlorine can bread complacency and sometimes people just don’t read directions.  If you opt to mix the chlorine with a small amount of water rather than dumping it directly in the pool, you may suffer serious damage to your lungs.

In the past two decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of recreational water illness outbreaks associated with swimming. Cryptosporidium, which can stay alive for days even in well-maintained pools, has become the leading cause of swimming pool-related outbreaks of diarrheal illness. From 2004 to 2008, reported Crypto cases increased over 200% (from 3,411 cases in 2004 to 10,500 cases in 2008).

Although Crypto is tolerant to chlorine, most germs are not. Keeping chlorine at recommended levels is essential to maintain a healthy pool. However, a 2010 study found that 1 in 8 public pool inspections resulted in pools being closed immediately due to serious code violations such as improper chlorine levels.

Residential pool owners and public pool operators can follow these simple and effective steps to prevent pool chemical injuries:

  • Read and follow directions on product labels.
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles and masks, as directed, when handling pool chemicals.
  • Secure pool chemicals to protect people and animals.
  • Keep young children away when handling chemicals.
  • NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, especially chlorine products with acid.
  • Pre-dissolve pool chemicals ONLY when directed by product label.
  • Add pool chemical to water, NEVER water to pool chemicals.

For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.

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