Injuries from pool chemicals led to nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012, according to a study released recently by the CDC. Nearly half of these preventable injuries were in children and teenagers and more than a third occurred at a home. Pool chemical injuries were most common during the summer swim season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and almost half occurred on weekends.
“Chemicals are added to the water in pools to stop germs from spreading. But they need to be handled and stored safely to avoid serious injuries,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.
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.
The most popular pool chemicals, chlorine and bromine, do not kill germs instantly; most are killed within minutes. It is important that everyone help keep germs out of the water in the first place by not swimming when ill with diarrhea and taking kids on bathroom breaks. Protect yourself by not swallowing pool water.
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.
See the CDC Announcement