Swimming Pool Chemical Safety

As I’m sure we all know by now, swimming pool chemicals should always be handled with care, especially acid and chlorine. If anyone has ever gotten either of these two in a small cut, you understand why.   Chlorine on the skin doesn’t immediately burn but it becomes uncomfortable and eventually will begin to burn. Acid on the other hand burns immediately. Even the fumes from the acid will begin to significantly itch your skin and if you breathe it in you’ll wish you hadn’t. Try acid washing your pool and you’ll get a better sense of what I mean.   Now I handle these chemicals every single day, multiple times a day and still get some on me every once in a while. And there’s nothing like a good gulp of acid fumes in the face at 8am to get the blood moving… it’s that damn wind.   But all joking aside, these two chemicals can potentially be deadly if not handled extremely carefully. Getting chemicals on me is just part of the job. We handle them so often and casually, that sometimes splashes from the water or spills from opening a cap are just bound to get on you.   That being said, I as well as many swimming pool professionals usually don’t have any major problems because we also fully understand the extreme dangers of these chemicals outside of swimming pool water and we handle them accordingly.

As I’m sure we all know by now, swimming pool chemical should always be handled with care, especially acid and chlorine. If anyone has ever gotten either of these two in a small cut, you understand why.

Chlorine on the skin doesn’t immediately burn but it becomes uncomfortable and eventually will begin to burn. Acid on the other hand burns immediately. Even the fumes from the acid will begin to significantly itch your skin and if you breathe it in you’ll wish you hadn’t. Try acid washing your pool and you’ll get a better sense of what I mean.

Now I handle these chemicals every single day, multiple times a day and still get some on me every once in a while. And there’s nothing like a good gulp of acid fumes in the face at 8am to get the blood moving… it’s that damn wind.

But all joking aside, these two chemicals can potentially be deadly if not handled extremely carefully. Getting chemicals on me is just part of the job. We handle them so often and casually, that sometimes splashes from the water or spills from opening a cap are just bound to get on you.

That being said, I as well as many swimming pool professionals usually don’t have any major problems because we also fully understand the extreme dangers of these chemicals outside of swimming pool water and we handle them accordingly.

 

I was lucky enough to experience this first hand so I’d like to share this with you… 

Now for those that don’t know, this is a family business and like it or not, I have been around and working on swimming pools my entire life. So when I was about 10 years old in 3rd or 4th grade (I cant remember,) I was helping my dad just like any other day. We were walking alongside a customer’s house to the backyard. I was carrying a jerry jug of chlorine in each hand and I was trying to see if I could carry them the entire length of the house. This was a wealthy customer whose house was pretty big and it was a good distance to the backyard. (I never needed to go to the gym.)

Now a gallon of chlorine is roughly 12 lbs. and a jerry jug is 2.5 gallons so they aren’t exactly what you would call “light” for a 10 year old.

So by the time I reached the backyard my arms were about to fall off. So naturally I set them down abruptly while sagging my head and letting out a big breath of air. The only problem is the jerry jugs I was carrying didn’t have caps on them. (We have 100 gl. Chlorine tanks with a hose to fill up individual jerry jugs so we never keep the caps on them because they are in and out of the trucks so often.) What happened next probably happened in a split second but I can remember it like it happened in slow motion.

The chlorine in the right jug splashed up into my right eye.

(I remembered my dad telling me since I was probably born that if I ever got chlorine in my eye, to run and dive into the closest body of water no matter what.)

So I immediately ran as fast as possible, screaming at the top of my lungs, with both my eyes closed, just opening my left one enough to see blue right before diving into the pool water.

I swam underwater all the way to the other side of the pool with my eyes as open as possible to flush out the chlorine while my dad went and got the hose.

I sat at the steps for probably 20 minutes or so trying to put the hose water directly into my eye. But adding water seemed to make it worse. Actually anything involving opening my eye didn’t agree with my eyelid. It wanted to stay tightly shut. I had to forcefully hold my eyelid open to get the water in there but it fought me the entire time.

Believe it or not it wasn’t until I calmed down a little bit while running the hose water through my eye that I realized I couldn’t see out of it… I got worried and started asking my dad if I was going to go blind. He assured me that I wasn’t but I was so young, what was I supposed to think. So every time I took the hose away to see if I could see anything, it was just a white fuzziness, basically a blur. Not to mention I couldn’t even fully open my eye and my eyelid was swollen.

After the 20 minutes or so the pain had subsided enough so we could leave. The blurriness also cleared up significantly and we walked back to the truck. (My dad had finished servicing the pool while I was flushing my eye out with the hose.)

While in the truck I immediately wanted to see my eye in the overhead mirror. It wasn’t too bad but my eyelid was swollen. I flipped my eyelid inside out and saw why… there was a huge red blister and burn on the inside of my eyelid.

For the next couple of days, my vision out of my right eye was blurry and white but I could see. It still hurt but not nearly as bad as the initial pain. I must have set a record for blinking in the next couple of days because that’s all my eye wanted to do.

After that, it was back to normal and I feel I can say I’m lucky I didn’t go blind. My dad always said after that “you’ll never make that mistake again” and he’s right. I don’t think anyone is dumb enough to make that kind of mistake twice because the second time you probably won’t be so lucky.

The pain was excruciating. I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like. It was to this day still the most painful thing I have ever experienced. (And I’ve literally broken my thumb in half and had to have metal pins put in to put it back in place, with-stained a 3rd degree burn on my shin, simultaneously torn my ligament and tendon in my middle finger, received stitches in both my chin and right foot, had a hematoma in my right calf, wrestled with cauliflower ear while it was still soft, & had my cauliflower ear drained on 3 separate occasions.)  That’s about all I can remember but you get the idea…

 

So for those people who are lucky enough to not have gone through such a traumatic experience with swimming pool chemicals, which is probably the majority of people, there are a couple of little things you can do to make sure that sort of thing never happens:

  • Always put a cap or lid on all your swimming pool chemicals especially chlorine.
  • Look away before pouring chlorine or acid in the water – It’s not that exciting anyways.
  • Wear sunglasses or safety glasses when handling pool chemicals – Sunglasses look cooler.
  • Don’t breathe in any fumes – These fumes won’t get you high.
  • Keep them in a breathable but secure place out of reach of children – There’s no joke for that one.
  • Keep out of contact with your skin as much as possible.
  • Wear gloves when handling any granular or solid form chemicals.

 

Most importantly, understand the severity swimming pool chemicals can have when in direct contact with the skin:
  • Getting chlorine or acid in your eye can blind you.
  • Beathing in acid fumes, or granular chlorine fumes can kill you.
  • Handling tablets can give you skin cancer.
  • An open container of these chemicals in a closed room will eventually rust or corrode metals and trust me, you don’t want to be breathing that in your lungs.
Also tell your kids what to do incase of an emergency with pool chemicals. The eye needs to be flushed out immediately. 

 

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