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 1) disinfect (e.g., chlorine or bromine); 2) optimize pH (e.g., muriatic acid) by simultaneously balancing the need to maximize disinfectant efficacy, swimmer comfort and safety, and equipment lifespan; and 3) increase water clarity, which helps prevent drowning by enabling lifeguards and others to identify distressed swimmers underwater. But 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 2015–2017, pool chemical injuries led to more than 13,000 estimated U.S. ED visits. The most common injury diagnosis was poisoning, through inhalation or ingestion. Over a third of the patients were aged <18 years, and over half of the injuries occurred at a residence. Narratives for NEISS reports noted that patients were most frequently injured when inhaling chemical fumes (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. Pool chemical injuries are preventable. The MAHC recommends including pool chemical safety in operator training, covering topics such as how to read product labels, which include information on what chemicals are incompatible (e.g., chlorine and acid) and which personal protective equipment to use.