Pool chemicals are added to water in treated recreational water venues (e.g., pools, hot tubs/spas, and water playgrounds) primarily to protect public health. Pool chemicals disinfect water (e.g., chlorine or bromine), optimize pH of water (e.g., muriatic acid), and increase water clarity, which helps prevent drowning by enabling detection of distressed swimmers underwater. However, pool chemicals can cause injuries if mishandled.
To estimate the annual number of U.S. emergency department (ED) visits for pool chemical injuries, CDC analyzed 2008–2017 National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data.
During 2008–2017, the median estimated annual number of U.S. ED visits for pool chemical injuries was 4,535 (range = 3,151–5,215). During 2015–2017, pool chemical injuries led to more than 13,000 estimated ED visits. The most common injury diagnosis was poisoning, through inhalation or ingestion. Over a third of the patients were ages <18 years. Two thirds of the injuries occurred during the period from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Narratives for NEISS reports noted that patients were most frequently injured when inhaling chemical fumes or dust (particularly while opening containers), when pool chemicals were not secured away from children, or when pool chemicals were added to the water just before the patient entered the water. This presentation will also describe a toxic chlorine gas incident that occurred at a public pool in New York in 2018.
Pool chemical injuries are preventable. CDC pool chemical safety recommendations are an important resource that operators of public treated recreational water venues (e.g., at hotels, apartment complexes, and waterparks) and owners of residential pools or hot tubs/spas can use when developing guidelines and procedures to prevent pool chemical injuries.