That “Chemical Smell” at the Pool Isn’t What You Think It Is
Colorado Springs, COLORADO, May 23, 2016- As Americans jump into another fun-filled summer of swimming, a new survey finds that most don’t know the real reason why some pools have a strong chemical smell. A survey conducted on behalf of the Water Quality and Health Council found that three-quarters of Americans incorrectly believe that the chemical odor they smell at pools is a sign that there’s too much chlorine in the water.
Experts at the Water Quality and Health Council, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®) said properly treated swimming pools do not have a strong chemical smell. However, when chlorine in pool water combines with pee, poop, sweat, and dirt from swimmers’ bodies, chemical irritants called chloramines are produced. These chloramines give off a chemical odor, cause eyes to get red and sting, and use up the chlorine, meaning there is less to kill germs.
“It’s understandable why most people think that a chemical smell means there is too much chlorine in the pool, but the truth could be the opposite,” said Chris Wiant, Chair of the Water Quality and Health Council. “To help prevent chloramines from forming where you swim, shower before swimming and take little swimmers on regular bathroom breaks.”
Experts from the Water Quality and Health Council, CDC, and the NSPF are advising swimmers to use a “Sensible Checklist” to ensure a fun and healthy swimming experience:
- Are the pH and chlorine level correct? Use a test strip to check.
- Standing at the edge of the pool, can you see the drain in the bottom of the deep end?
- Do drain covers on the bottom of the pool appear to be secure and in good repair?
- Is a lifeguard on duty? If a lifeguard is not on duty, is safety equipment (for example, a rescue ring or pole) available?
- Is the area around the pool free of strong chemical odors?
If you answer no to any of the questions, do not get into the water because the conditions could lead to illness or injury.
“If you identify any health or safety issues, tell the pool operator, so the problem can be fixed.” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. “If the pool operator does not fix the problem, contact your local or state health department and report the problem.”
Doing your own inspection can help you decide whether a pool is healthy and safe or not, but that refreshing feeling when you first jump in can be an incentive to enjoying a lifetime of exercise. The survey, conducted by Survata , found that four in five American adults swim more for fun than they do for exercise. In fact, Americans feel that summertime swimming (54%) is more enjoyable than either running (9%) or biking (14%).
“Swimming is proof that exercise can be fun if you just add water,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph. D., CEO of NSPF. “It’s not just a form of fun exercise though. Swimming is a lifetime survival skill. Learning to swim should become a priority for all parents and adults, not only could their children become healthier for it, but they could also save someone’s life someday.”
Getting the Word Out
The Water Quality and Health Council is once again making free test kits available this summer through their Healthy Pools campaign. Swimmers can test their backyard or community pool to ensure it has proper pH and chlorine level. To order a free test kit offered as part of the Water Quality and Health Council’s award winning summer Healthy Pools campaign, please go to www.healthypools.org.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation would like to encourage adults to find swimming classes for themselves and their children through swimtoday.org. Learning to swim today, can improve your health and save a life tomorrow.
To learn more about healthy and safe swimming, check out CDC’s new Healthy Swimming website at www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.
The survey was conducted online by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco. Survata interviewed 1,500 adults May 12-13, 2016 and has a margin of error of 2.5%.
1These chloramines are different from the type of chloramine that is sometimes used to treat drinking water.
2The survey was conducted online by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco. Survata interviewed 1,500 adults May 12-13, 2016 and has a margin of error of 2.5%.