How Safe Is Your Public Swimming Pool?

How Safe Is Your Public Swimming Pool?

Recently (early June 2019), in Pleasant Grove, Utah fifty people at a public swimming pool were exposed to chlorine gas.  Twenty of those people had to be treated at the hospital.  Most of those exposed were children. 

In most cases the chlorine that is added to pools and drinking water to kill bacteria is safe.  However, chlorine in gas form is very poisonous.

Chlorine inhalation toxicity can occur during routine attendance at swimming pools and in higher-level exposures at swimming pools when accidents occur with the pools purification systems.

What is Chlorine?

Chlorine is an element and can be found on the periodic table.  Chlorine is a yellow-green gas at room temperature and has a pungent odor similar to bleach.

Chlorine is usually used in its liquid or powder form to treat swimming pools.

What is Chlorine Used For?

It is highly used in industry and in household cleaning products.  It is used to make paper, pesticides and rubber.  Chlorine has antibacterial properties, which means it kills and prevents the growth of bacteria.  Some house hold products that contain chlorine include: bleaches, cleaning products, disinfectants, antifreeze and water purification tablets.

Most city water treatment plants use chlorine to purify drinking water. The concentration of chlorine in public drinking water is extremely low and not harmful to human health.

Public swimming pools use chlorine to sanitize and kill any bacteria that may be in the water.

Is Chlorine Gas Dangerous?

Chlorine in its gas form is poisonous.  It was used as a chemical weapon in World War I.

There are 4 factors that contribute to the severity of chlorine poisoning:

  • The amount of chlorine
  • How close you are to the chlorine source
  • The type of exposure
  • The length of exposure

Breathing in high levels of chlorine gas causes fluid in the lungs or pulmonary edema.

Symptoms of Chlorine Gas Exposure

  • Breathing Difficulties, Coughing, Wheezing
  • Fluid in the Lungs
  • Blurry Vision, Watery eyes
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Burning in the Nose, Mouth, or Eyes
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Blood in Vomit or Stools
  • Bleeding from the Nose

Some people are sensitive and can get a chlorine rash from swimming in chlorinated pools or soaking in hot tubs.

If Exposed to Chlorine Gas Take These Action Steps

When chlorine enters the body through breathing, swallowing or skin contact it reacts with the water in your body (such as moist tissue in eyes, throat and lungs) to create acids.  These acids damage all body cells they contact.

There is no antidote for chlorine poisoning, but chlorine’s effects are treatable, and most people recover.  You may need hospital care to deal with some symptoms.  The treatment goal is to remove the chlorine from the body as quickly as possible.

  • Leave the area where the chlorine gas is and get to fresh air as quick as possible.  If o