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For many, a refreshing dip in the pool is a welcome rite of summer. With this “rite” come swimmer responsibilities. To mark this year’s Healthy and Safe Swimming Week1, we explore the topic of swimmer hygiene. Warning: this discussion is somewhat graphic, but it is meant only to encourage healthy swimming.
Swimmers Affect Pool Water Chemistry
Healthy swimming requires healthy pools. It is the pool manager’s responsibility to maintain proper pool chemistry, including appropriate pH and chlorine levels. But did you know that swimmers can affect pool chemistry just by entering the pool?
As pool water contacts skin, perspiration, dirt, body oils and cosmetics are washed into the water. Swimmers may also introduce pathogens (disease-causing germs), particularly from the perianal area (the area of skin around the anus), and especially if the swimmer has not showered appropriately. CDC makes the point (see the CDC brochure, “Share the Fun…not the Germs, and Make a Healthy Splash”) that babies in diapers, even swim diapers and swim pants, may contribute urine or fecal matter to the water, as these items are not leak-proof. Additionally, some swimmers believe it is ok to “pee in the pool.” Taken together, that’s a lot of “chemistry added.” Not to mention pathogens, the “biology added.”
The Role of Chlorine
You may ask: Doesn’t chlorine control the germs in pools? Why be concerned? Chlorine-based disinfectants do destroy most waterborne pathogens. Impurities introduced by unhygienic practices deplete chlorine, however, leaving everyone at greater risk for infection if chlorine levels are not carefully maintained.
Swimmers can help keep pool water safer for everyone by showering before swimming and not peeing in the pool. Additionally, anyone experiencing diarrhea should stay out of the pool, and swimmers should avoid swallowing pool water. As CDC notes, just one mouthful of “germy water” is enough to sicken some people.
Swimmers Can Monitor Pool Chemistry
You can keep tabs on pool water chemistry by using pool test kits to monitor the pH and chlorine level. Every summer, the Water Quality & Health Council makes these kits freely available to the public (one to each household) at www.healthypools.org. The kit includes color-coded test strips for dipping into pool water and instructions for interpreting the results. If readings for the public pool you visit are off, see the pool manager and don’t swim until levels are corrected. If levels are not satisfactorily corrected, contact the local public health department, as they have the authority to regulate public pools.
Backyard and community pools bring friends and family together in one of the few remaining environments in which smart phones and tablets are not a major distraction—a refreshing thought! Armed with a greater awareness of swimmer hygiene issues, we hope your pool experience will be refreshingly healthy.
Download or order the CDC brochure, “Share the fun…not the germs, and make a healthy splash!”
Bob G. Vincent is an Environmental Administrator in the Florida Department of Health. He manages Department of Health programs for Healthy Marine Beaches, Safe Drinking Water, Water Well Surveillance and Public Pools and Bathing Places.
1Healthy and Safe Swimming Week is May 18-24, 2015, and is sponsored by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mythical pee detecting dye? Nope. Chlorine causes red eye? Nope.
But “red eyes” is a colorful indicator that someone might have peed in the pool.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the swimming season kicks off, health experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Water Quality and Health Council and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) have teamed up to launch a campaign to stop people from peeing in the pool. To do so, they are busting a couple of colorful myths associated with this clandestine activity.
According to a new survey conducted by Survata on behalf of the Water Quality and Health Council, nearly half of Americans surveyed incorrectly believe that there is a chemical that is added to pools that turns a conspicuous color in the presence of pee. In the same survey, 71 percent also incorrectly blame chlorine for causing swimmers’ eyes to become red and irritated.
“Chlorine and other disinfectants are added to a swimming pool to destroy germs. Peeing in a pool depletes chlorine and actually produces an irritant that makes people’s eyes turn red,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program… “The solution isn’t rocket science; it’s common courtesy. Swimmers should use the pool to swim, the restroom to pee, and the showers to wash up before getting in the pool. It’s that simple.”
“There isn’t a dye that turns red, it’s the eyes that turn red. Swimmers’ eyes are the real color indicator that someone might have peed in a pool,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of the NSPF.
“That ‘chlorine’ smell at the pool isn’t actually chlorine. What you smell are chemicals that form when chlorine mixes with pee, sweat, and dirt from swimmers’ bodies,” said Chris Wiant, Chair of the Water Quality and Health Council “These chemicals—not chlorine—can cause your eyes to become red and sting, make your nose run, and make you cough.”
Busting the Pool Dye Myth
It’s the most common pool myth of all time: If you pee in the pool the water will change color and everyone will know. Parents have long used the story of a chemical that changes color in the presence of pee to keep their children from peeing in the pool. The fact is there is no such dye that currently exists.
Busting the Chlorine/Red Eye Myth
When nitrogen-containing compounds found in pee, sweat, and dirt combine with chlorine, irritants are formed. These substances, not the chlorine itself, irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system. In this case, more chlorine may actually need to be added to pool water to break down irritants, according to the Water Quality and Health Council.
Getting the Word Out
Lachocki added that swimming keeps us happy and healthy. We need more healthy swimming and less seeing red! The CDC and the American Chemistry Council also have collaborated on a brochure that includes key messages about healthy swimming, which include showering before swimming and not peeing in a pool. To order a free CDC brochure, go to www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/resources/brochures.html.
The Water Quality and Health Council is once again making free pool test kits available this summer through their Healthy Pools campaign. Swimmers can test their backyard pool or community pool to ensure it has a proper pH and chlorine level. Good pool chemistry combined with a few easy and effective healthy swimming steps will not only help reduce unwanted germs in the pool, but they can help reduce instances of red eye.
The survey was conducted by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco. Survata interviewed 1,500 online respondents between April 23, 2015 and April 28, 2015. The margin of error for the survey is 2.53%.
This YouTube video on Pool Chemical Safety provides tips on avoiding pool chemical accidents and injuries.
What’s more refreshing than swimming in crystal-clear pool water? It takes chemistry to achieve “crystal clear”—the appropriate use of disinfectants, pH adjusters and algaecides. Pool water would quickly become a cloudy, hazardous “microbial soup” without pool chemicals, but as with all chemicals, the ones we use in the pool must be treated with a heaping dose of healthy respect. The following three case studies, taken from recent news reports, illustrate the unfortunate and sometimes tragic results of mishandling pool chemicals. “Lessons learned” from these examples are highlighted below.
Keep Pool Chemicals Dry
A hotel in Waldorf, Maryland was evacuated on the morning of March 14, 2015 when two young children complained of eye irritation. The youngsters had been playing in the hotel hot tub, located next to the pool chemical storage area, according to a report in the Washington Post. A spokesperson for the Charles County Volunteer Fire and EMS Associations later explained that, “A five-gallon container of chlorine tablets had gotten wet, and the odor had begun to spread.”
The “odor” referred to by the spokesperson was caused by a very concentrated solution of the chemical, made as water contacted it. Heat might have been released when water contacted the chlorine tablets, and the product might have begun to decompose, potentially leading to gas generation. To avoid such chemical reactions, pool chemicals must be kept dry in storage:
- Store pool chemicals in a location in which they will remain dry and not be exposed to rain, snow or floodwaters.
- Store liquid pool chemicals low to prevent accidental contact by their leaking onto chemicals stored below them.
Designate Containers for Only One Pool Chemical
A maintenance worker in a senior living home in Cayuga Heights, New York was overcome by fumes last August 9, when he accidentally “put chlorine in a container for muriatic acid,” according to a Syracuse, New York area TV news report. “Chlorine” in this story likely refers to either solid chlorine-based pool disinfectant or liquid chlorine bleach. When the chlorine-based disinfectant contacted acid remaining in the container, a chemical reaction occurred that generated chlorine gas, sickening the maintenance worker. To avoid chemical reactions that may generate unwanted chemical products, never reuse chemical containers, as traces of the original chemical may remain and be reactive with introduced products:
- Keep chemicals closed in original, labeled containers.
- Read the entire product label or Material Safety Data Sheet before using or storing chemicals.
- Dress for safety by wearing appropriate safety equipment, such as safety goggles, gloves and mask.
Never Mix Pool Chemicals
A Buena Park, California pool maintenance worker died of injuries he suffered when he was overcome by fumes generated by chemical mixing in an apartment building garage on February 24, 2015. The Orange County Register reported fire authorities “…lifted [the man] out of a puddle of yellow chemicals, which omitted a yellow gas…[the man] had severe burns to his back face and respiratory tract, including his lungs.”
Several pool-cleaning chemicals were found at the scene, including chlorine and hydrochloric acid. The news report speculates that the man might have inhaled toxic fumes, causing him to fall unconscious, knocking over and spilling chemicals as he fell. A spokesperson for the Orange County Fire Authority stated, “With all pool chemicals we have to make sure they are separated and that they do not mix…. Some chemicals, when they mix, can be deadly." This disastrous example contains several lessons:
- Handle pool chemicals in a well-ventilated area.
- Open one product container at a time and close it before opening another.
- Minimize dust, fumes and splashes.
- Never mix chlorine products with acid; this could create toxic gases. Even carbonated beverages are acidic enough to react with chlorine products! Keep food and drinks away from pool chemicals.
- Never mix different pool chemicals (for example, different types of chlorine products) with each other or with any other substance.
- Only pre-dissolve pool chemicals when directed by the product label.
Pool chemical accidents in the US lead to thousands of visits to emergency departments each year.1 Yet, many pool chemical accidents are preventable. Preventing accidents is a matter of maintenance workers and backyard pool owners being armed with safety knowledge. For important tips on safely using and storing pool chemicals, download or order a free set of pool chemical safety posters at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. Further detail can be found in the You Tube video, “Pool Chemical Safety,” which was developed by the Chlorine Institute and the American Chemistry Council, and contains messages based on information from the CDC.
Click here to download this article
Bob G. Vincent is an Environmental Administrator in the Florida Department of Health. He manages Department of Health programs for Healthy Marine Beaches, Safe Drinking Water, Water Well Surveillance and Public Pools and Bathing Places.
1 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 15, 2009/58(18); 489-2007. Pool Chemical—Associated Health Events in Public and Residential Settings — United States, 1983-2007. On-line, available: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5818a1.htm
Swimming pools are amazing venues for recreation and exercise. They are also reservoirs of all the substances swimmers introduce into them. In addition to the substances that swimmers apply to themselves while at the pool, the average swimmer adds low levels of personal care products like deodorant, skin lotions, sprays and makeup, especially if they fail to shower before entering the pool. Additionally, according to a 2009 Water Quality & Health Council survey, one in five adult Americans admits to having “peed in the pool,” introducing not only urine, but potentially low levels of caffeine and pharmaceuticals. It is estimated that the average swimmer also introduces trace amounts of fecal matter into the pool. Add to this mix needed disinfectants (see: fecal matter reference), and you have all the makings of a chemistry experiment in a large “bath tub.”
This summer, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the availability of the first edition of its Model Aquatic Health Code. “The MAHC,” as it is known, provides free guidance on the design, construction, operation and maintenance of public swimming pools and spas. Why is such a document needed?
As CDC notes on its website, there is no federal regulatory agency responsible for the proper functioning of aquatic facilities. About 68 percent of local health departments regulate or inspect public swimming pools and facilities. These health departments write and update their codes periodically, expending valuable local resources. And yet, in 2010, CDC reported one in eight pool inspections conducted in 15 states in 2008 resulted in immediate closures due to serious violations, such as a lack of disinfectant in the water. Poorly operated aquatic facilities can lead to drowning, recreational water illness outbreaks and chemical injuries.
The MAHC Process
In 2007, CDC convened experts to develop a voluntary, science-based code for safer aquatic facilities. The idea was to provide a document to which states and localities can refer without having to spend time and money reinventing the wheel when it comes to aquatic facilities. CDC organized a steering committee and 12 technical committees to address important topics including operator training;
Examples of MAHC Recommendations
“A qualified operator of an aquatic facility shall have completed an operator training course that is recognized by the authority having jurisdiction.” (Section 6.1)
Aquatic facilities shall provide hygiene facilities that include, at a minimum, toilets, urinals, showers, diaper-changing stations, and other hygiene fixtures, as specified herein. (Section 126.96.36.199)
Minimum Free Available Chlorine (FAC) Concentrations
Minimum FAC concentrations are 1.0 ppm for aquatic venues not using cyanuric acid stabilizer; 2.0 ppm for aquatic venues using cyanuric acid; and 3.0 ppm for spas; only chlorine products that are EPA-registered for use in US aquatic venues or spas are permitted. (Section 5.7.8)
disinfection and water quality; recirculation system and filtration; lifeguarding and bather supervision; monitoring and testing; facility design and construction; and hygiene facilities. The committees were composed of volunteer subject matter experts from public health, academia, aquatics and industry. Over the course of its seven-year development, the MAHC invited two sets of public comments, resulting in over 4,000 submissions. The great majority of these comments, 72 percent, were accepted and incorporated into the MAHC, evidence of a truly collaborative process.
The MAHC process is based largely on the process used by the Conference for Food Protection to create the Food Code. The MAHC will be updated every two years through the new Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code, which is being organized currently by CDC, with stakeholder input. The first update will take place in October 2015 in a pre-conference meeting of the 12th World Aquatic Health Conference.
The Public Health Impact
The MAHC is expected to be adopted widely in the US by states and local governments. CDC sets no rules or mandates for adopting the Code: Some jurisdictions may choose to adopt it in its entirety, while others may adopt only parts of the MAHC. One thing is for sure: Developing a model code for aquatic facilities is a step in the right direction for aquatic health and safety. Bravo, CDC and volunteer contributors, on reaching a significant milestone: The first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code!
Learn more about The Model Aquatic Health Code.
Linda Golodner is President Emeritus of the National Consumers League and Vice Chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.
A short video produced recently by the American Chemical Society answers the question, “Is it OK to Pee in the Ocean?” with a resounding “yes!” Ocean swimmers, relax, and know that your, eh, “contribution” is processed by the marine environment. Pool swimmers, you are not off the hook. When nature calls, swim to the nearest ladder and find the restroom.
A Tale of Two Watery Environments
Ocean and Pool: Relative Volumes
The volume of the Atlantic Ocean, at 350 quintillion liters, is vast—140 trillion times the volume of an Olympic-size swimming pool (about 2.5 million liters). Urine, a salty water solution containing low levels of urea (a waste product left after our bodies process protein), is greatly diluted in the already salty ocean. Swimmer urine makes a much more significant contribution in a pool, especially a crowded one.
Here’s why swimmers get a thumbs up for peeing in the ocean and a thumbs down for peeing in the pool:
All forms of aquatic life pee in the ocean with no adverse effects to the marine environment. Urea in the ocean actually helps feed plant life, so there is a “system balance” present that is not found in swimming pools. Pools are manmade constructions that must contain disinfectants, such as chlorine, to help prevent germs spreading among swimmers in close contact with one another.
In swimming pools, urea and disinfectant combine chemically to produce unwanted compounds that are irritants. Swimmer “red eye” and itchy skin are caused by these substances, known as disinfection byproducts. Many people think the characteristic pungent chemical smell around pools is from chlorine, but in fact, it is due to disinfection byproducts.
Swimmers can help maintain the quality of their pool water by using the bathroom and showering before swimming. Showering removes sweat, cosmetics and traces of urine and feces. Minimizing these substances in the pool helps prevent disinfection byproducts forming and frees chlorine do its job of destroying germs.
In conclusion, please don’t pee in the pool, but if you are going for a swim in the ocean, take your cue from the fish: You can pee in the ocean and you don’t have to feel guilty about it!
Bruce Bernard, PhD, is President of SRA Consulting, Inc. and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Toxicology.
After the record cold winter of 2013-14, lots of folks are enjoying summertime by swimming in the pool. As you cool off, dazzle your fellow swimmers with the truth about these common swimming pool myths:
Myth #1: The heavy chemical smell around the pool is a reminder that chlorine is present in the water for killing germs.
Fact: A properly disinfected swimming pool has no strong chemical smell, despite the presence of chlorine disinfectant to destroy germs. That surprises most people. In fact, the odor we notice around pools arises from the presence of chloramines in pool water. Without turning this into a chemistry lesson, chloramines form when chlorine disinfectants react with contaminants brought into pools on the bodies of swimmers. These contaminants include perspiration, urine, body oils and cosmetics. Chloramines are irritants that can redden the eyes of swimmers and make their skin itchy. Ironically, while many people think a pool chemical smell means there is too much chlorine in the water, more chlorine disinfectant may actually be needed to destroy the irritating chloramines.
Myth #2: Chlorine in pool water turns your hair green.
Fact: Green hair is associated with swimming and blondes display this best, but don’t blame chlorine. The green color comes from metals, such as copper, in the water, which are added to control algae or may be leached from pool plumbing and fixtures. Hint: Wear a swim cap. If you hate that idea, experts recommend a thorough hair-rinsing as soon as you leave the pool, followed by a gentle shampoo.
Myth #3: Pool water is disinfected, so it’s alright if my children swallow some.
Fact: Teach your children to avoid getting pool water in their mouths. Chlorine does kill waterborne germs, but chlorine levels fluctuate in pools, especially busy, crowded pools. And germs are not equally susceptible to chlorine–some germs take longer to destroy than others. Pool staff are responsible for keeping chlorine levels within an acceptable range, but, unfortunately, not all pools are carefully maintained. It’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid swallowing pool water. But if this sounds like rather passive advice, please read on.
Myth #4: It’s up to pool operators to keep pools healthy.
Fact: There’s so much you can do too! To minimize irritating chloramines, shower before swimming and never pee in the pool. Take young swimmers on frequent bathroom breaks and make sure they wash their hands. Anyone with diarrhea must stay out of the water. Learn to recognize the signs of a Healthy Pool, and notify pool staff if those signs are missing. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging swimmers to measure the pH and free chlorine level of pool water this year to make sure they are swimming in a Healthy Pool. It’s a simple test done with a color-coded plastic strip, and you can even order a free test kit at http://www.healthypools.org/order-pool-kit-form/. If you find unacceptable pool readings, inform pool staff, who should correct the pool chemistry. If this does not happen, CDC recommends you notify your local public health department. Finally, upload your results on the Healthy Pools site to see how your pool compares to others around the country.
Here’s to a great summer in only the healthiest of pools!
Swim lessons—compliments of the Step Into SwimTM Campaign—at a New York state park lake
Photo credit: New York State Parks Department
Learning to swim is an investment that can pay dividends in health, enjoyment and living a long life. Knowing how to swim can mean the difference between life and death, and opens up a world of other activities, like sailing, canoeing, fishing and water skiing, making them safer and more fun. This summer, the National Swimming Pool Foundation’s (NSPF’s) Step Into SwimTMCampaign will help up to 1,000 children become swimmers, including children living in rural areas with limited opportunities for swimming lessons.
The non-profit National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) reports that four organizations received a total of $70,000 Step Into SwimTM gifts from the NSPF this year. Those gifts were funded by donations to the Campaign, which were matched dollar for dollar by the Foundation. According to a news release by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, one of those programs supported the American Red Cross and New York State Parks department. The collaboration, and the Step Into SwimTM gift, enabled the Red Cross to train over 15 new instructors this summer. The Parks Department made the swim lessons available for free in five New York state parks. New York state residents can check the schedule of swimming lessons for potential lessons in their areas. We applaud these groups and their efforts to share the gift of swimming.
Why Bother to Take Swimming Lessons?
A personal recollection from Bruce Bernard, PhD
Some families don’t think learning to swim is important, either because the parents don’t know how to swim, and they don’t view it as a problem, or because they don’t live near bodies of water. This reminds me of a very important memory from my childhood. My next door neighbor, Chuck, was the strongest man I have ever known. He was in his 30’s and would wrestle me and five of my friends, all of us about 16 – 17 years old. Chuck would throw us around like bales of straw. He could pick up three of us at a time (he owned a fence company and loaded railroad ties daily). No matter how many friends I had to wrestle with him, he always ended up putting us in a pile and sitting on us!
Several years after I finished college, I heard that Chuck had died. He had been in a small boat with his wife and had fallen overboard and DROWNED! INCONCEIVEABLE! Chuck? With his muscles? Save your child’s life: Give him or her swimming lessons.
Finding Swimming Lessons in Your Area
Summer is a great time to start your children soaring through the water as confident swimmers. In addition to the Step Into SwimTM Program, here are a few options for finding lessons:
- YMCA: The YMCA offers swimming lessons for all ages, family swim, competitive swimming and diving teams and adaptive swim programs for children with special needs. Find your local “Y” here.
- American Red Cross: The American Red Cross offers a six-level Learn-to-Swim program designed for children over six years of age and adults. Register for classes in your area here.
- Local Community Pools and Swim Clubs: Contact your local public or private swimming pool or club and inquire about swimming lessons. Lessons, either private or group, are often given on summer mornings before the pool opens for general use.
Are you a backyard pool owner? Do you sometimes wish you could have free expert advice on pool maintenance? Your wish just came true: check out the Water Quality & Health Council’s popular online “Ask a Pool Operator” feature.
The “Ask a Pool Operator” web page includes an extensive archive of questions and answers organized by category, including Chlorine, Cloudy-murky Water, Dealing with Animals in the Pool, Green Water and Algae, Inflatable Pools, pH , Salt Pools and more. Explore the site to learn from the already posted “Q’s and A’s,” and feel free to submit a new question.
Here is a sampling of questions submitted so far by pool owners and answered by an expert.
what is the right clorine level of a swiiming pool? if the test shows 9 should i close the pool ?
The ideal level of free chlorine in the swimming pool is 2 to 4 ppm. 1 to 5 ppm is acceptable and 9 ppm is on the high side. 9 ppm would likely be safe to swim, but could be more of an irritant. Ideally, the level would be alllowed to come down to 5 ppm before swimmers are allowed to swim.
Topic: Cloudy-murky Water
the pool is murky…looks like a pond…when i scoop out leaves the water that drains out from the net is clean. not grean or anything. i’m about to give up and drain the whole thing and start over..but I hate to do it its my last resort
Once the large debris is gone, top up the water and get it balanced and start adding algaecide if any green color to the water and chlorine (be carefull to follow instructions carefully for algaecide as it may go in particular order with your chlorine). The water balance and filtering should clear it up, but it is not a particularly quick process. It may take a few days to clear up from this point. If it is not improving daily, you should check the filter. It may need to be cleaned or not getting enough pressure, etc. Proper filtration along with the chemical treatments is the key to your recovery.
Topic: Green Water and Algae
ok i need help. I just bought a house with a inground 25k gal. pool. I dont know anything about the keep up on one. It has not been used for 2 years and is very green. I need help. Where do I even start?
The best thing that you can do is to learn about your swimming pool. There are many online resources and many local swimming pool retailers offer free or low cost “pool school” to help teach you about pool maintenance. First, a very green pool means algae. You will have to treat this, typically with chlorine and perhaps algaecide. I would suggest taking a water sample to a local retailer who will test the water for you and help you make a plan for opening your pool.
Topic: Inflatable Pools
We have a 900 gal. inflatable pool and frequently use shock, chlorine, clarifier, and anti-fungal conditioner. We find the water stays cloudy even after treating with clarifier every couple of days. We gauge the water treatment using the litmus tests every couple of days, and adjust the chemicals accordingly.
How often should we be treating the water, and how often should we drain and re-fill the pool? Thanks
You should be treating your water as often as the test says that it is out of balance. It is recommended to test 2 to 3 times per week. Just remember you will spend a lot less money making small adjustments than if you lwt it go for a while and have a problem that requires large dosages of treatment chemicals. Also, how often the pool is drained and refilled depends on several factors – bather load, amount of chemicals added, length of season, etc. Typically a partial drain and refill is all that is necessary to “refresh” the water (i.e. drain the water half way down and fill it back up). If you filled it when you started the season with fresh water, you should not need to drain and refill during the season.
how can i measure the ph level of my pool on a daily basis
There are several ways to be able to measure pH in your swimming pool on a daily basis. There are liquid kits, tablet kits, electronic meters and test strips. I would recommend the strips as they are easy to use and low cost if measuring that frequently. Also, you should only need to test the pool daily if it is getting used heavily or the conditions are extreme – heat, rain, dust, fertilizer overspray, etc. Testing 3 times a week should be sufficient under normal conditions (unless you are a public facility and more regular testing is required by regulation).
Topic: Salt Pools
I’ve heard about salt chlorination. Is it better than chlorine?
It is actually the same as chlorine, it is just introducing the chlorine in a different way. In a salt generator system, salt is added to the pool water and a cell installed that can convert this salt into free chlorine. It can be a very effective system and can cut down on maintenance due to the fact that it is constantly producing chlorine. However, it should be treated the same as any other chlorine system with regular testing and adjustment of balancing chemicals like pH and total alkalinity as well as the occasional shock treatment. One word of caution about these systems – the cell used to convert salt to chlorine will need to be replaced every 3 – 5 years and can be very costly. Before you purchase a salt system check to see what the replacement cell will cost you and factor that into your decision.
Topic: Dealing with Animals in the Pool
I have an above ground pool with a deck around it and we just opened the pool up.we are having a problem with the frogs hanging around on the side of the pool.how can i get them away from my pool (without harming my pool).
There are frog repelents available that would work to keep frogs away. There may be precautions necessary for use around the swimming pool. Follow manufacturer’s directions. Another trusted method is to spray a solution of vinegar onto the surface where you keep getting frogs. Frogs do not like the burning sensation this causes. However, the odor can obviously be mildly irritating. Last, make sure you do not leave lights on around or in the pool as this will attract insects which will also attract the frogs.
This poolside scenario will repeat itself many times this summer:
- Child emerges from swimming pool and approaches parent, rubbing his/her eyes.
- Parent takes one look at red-eyed child and exclaims, “There must be too much chlorine in the pool. Stay out of the water for a while.”
- Child agrees reluctantly.
The belief that swimmers’ red, irritated eyes are caused by “too much chlorine in the pool” is an urban legend. The irritation is real, but it is more likely linked to poor swimmer hygiene than to high chlorine levels, a fact that surprises many.
Peeing in the Pool Can be Bad for Swimmer Health
Why Add Chlorine to Pools Anyway?
Good pool chemistry plays a key role in maintaining healthy pools for swimmers. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls chlorine and pH “the first defense against germs that can make swimmers sick.” In fact, when trace levels of chlorine are maintained in swimming pool water at the right pH, chlorine is on “guard duty” against a wide range of bacteria and viruses introduced into pools by swimmers that can cause a host of problems besides conjunctivitis, including gastrointestinal upset, swimmer’s ear and irritated skin. You can check for healthy pH and chlorine levels in your pool this summer by ordering a free pool test kit. Place your order at www.healthypools.org.
The red eye myth is linked to another swimming pool fallacy, sometimes espoused by parents of young swimmers. That fallacy is that peeing in the pool is acceptable because “the chlorine takes care of it [it being the urine].” Peeing in the pool is not unusual: one in five American adults admit to “peeing in the pool,” according to our 2009 survey. The truth is that peeing in the pool can be bad for swimmer health because chlorine reacts with urine (and also feces, sweat, body oils and cosmetics, for that matter) to form products that are irritants and potentially worse. While researchers continue to probe the health effects of these substances–known as disinfection byproducts–they all agree that better swimmer hygiene can help prevent their formation.
Four Hygiene Tips for Showing a Little Kindness to Your Fellow Swimmer:
- Don’t pee in the pool! Take children on frequent bathroom breaks and make sure they know it is not alright to use the pool as a toilet.
- Check swim diapers of young children frequently and change diapers in facility restrooms, not poolside.
- Shower before swimming in the pool and help young children shower. Unshowered swimmers and hot tub users unwittingly contribute small amounts dirt, body oils, makeup, sweat and feces to the water, which add up in a crowded pool or spa.
- Encourage swim team coaches to permit swimmers to take bathroom breaks as needed.
Chris Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation. He is also chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.