Monday, September 30, 2002
Fall is here and for many homeowners that necessitates the closing of their swimming pools. The Atlantic County Division of Public Health would like to remind residents how important it is to properly use and store pool chemicals.
Less than one month ago residents of an apartment complex in Somers Point learned first hand of the dangers of improperly stored chemicals. The incident involved swimming pool chlorine tablets that violently reacted with an unknown compound. Residents were evacuated and tenants, police and firemen were treated for chemical exposure.
The majority of swimming pools in the United States use chemicals that contain chlorine compounds for disinfection. Chlorine compounds kill bacteria and viruses and help keep swimming pool water quality safe and sanitary. These same chlorine compounds, however, can be very reactive when mixed with other compounds and may result in explosion, fire and noxious gas production.
Most people know not to mix chlorine and ammonia products because the chemicals have the potential to react and produce poisonous gases that could be harmful if inhaled. But there are many other substances that react with chlorine, such as algaecides and other "organic" type compounds, with which the public may not be familiar.
"A good rule of thumb for all residents is to never, ever, under any circumstances, mix any substance containing chlorine with anything other than water," stated Public Health Officer Tracye McArdle. "Improperly mixed chemicals can cause serious injuries. We urge people to be careful and exercise good safety practices."
The Division of Public Health recommends the following safe practices to prevent accidents in and around the home:
1. Store chemicals in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, with locked entry if possible. Keep out of the reach of children. Do not set out in the sun.
2. Keep pool and spa chemicals separate from each other and separate from other chemicals such as gasoline, oil, detergents, etc.
3. Keep chemicals in original, labeled containers. Replace lids and caps firmly and immediately after opening.
4. DO NOT stack chemical containers on top of one another.
5. Properly dispose of empty chemical containers (see product label). DO NOT reuse containers especially with other types of chemicals.
6. DO NOT use the same scoop with different chemicals. Buy separate scoops that are dedicated to a specific chemical.
7. DO NOT use a common bucket or containers to dilute chemicals. Unseen residues in buckets can also cause violent reactions when chemicals are added.
8. Keep emergency phone numbers handy in addition to the number for poison control.
9. DO NOT discard unused or spilled swimming pool chemicals, such as chlorine tablets, in the trash or down the sewer. Containers may break open in trash truck causing reaction and injuring workers.
If you need to dispose of unused chemicals, the next Household Hazardous Waste Day, sponsored by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, is scheduled for:
Saturday, October 5 - 9 AM to 2 PM
Atlantic County Office Building
6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing
For more information about swimming pool safety, please contact the Atlantic County Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5971.