By Doug Sackett
Chlorine use at aquatic recreational facilities is a mainstay of public health protection. In the past few years, however, while infrequent, there have been troubling incidents of accidental exposure of facility staff and patrons to chlorine gas. These events evidently occur internationally. A recent sampling includes:
- April 2018, Newfoundland: At least 10 children were transported to a hospital from a Deer Lake hotel following “a malfunction of the system that pumps chlorine gas into the hotel’s swimming pool. Too much of the gas was pumped in too quickly,” according a quote from a first responder.
- August 2018, Paris: A Disneyland hotel pool was the site of an accidental chlorine gas exposure in which 22 people were treated for nausea or respiratory problems.
- October 2018, California: An equipment malfunction at a swim school in Thousand Oaks caused 19 people to suffer “chlorine poisoning.” The incident sent seven ambulances and four fire engines to the school following reports of swimmers with breathing difficulty.
In the waning months of 2017, a diverse group of pool experts was convened by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to develop a video to help explain why these incidents occur and how to take appropriate steps to avoid them. The author was one of the stakeholders, representing the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC), which, through the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), also addresses the need for electrical interlock protection. The ACC wanted to help prevent accidental chlorine gas exposures. Previously, the chlorine industry had produced a similar, short, free video on the safe use and handling of pool chemicals that is available at www.poolchemicalsafety.com. The industry, as the author learned, strives to be good stewards of its products, as it should be.
In addition to the author and an issues manager from the ACC, the stakeholder video development group consisted of representatives of pool associations, government health officials, nonprofit organizations, and pool chemical and equipment manufacturers. Nearly every teleconference was also attended by a talented videographer who seamlessly absorbed the issue and its solution, and translated all of the concepts to video with clarity and precision.