State Fire Marshal reminds residents of safe handling of chemicals in swimming pool
STOW, Mass .– State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey reminds pool owners to make sure their chemicals are handled and stored correctly.
“Pool chemicals can be dangerous when they get wet or are mixed with other chemicals,” State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said. powder.”
“Make sure all chemicals are stored in a safe, dry place, and carefully follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions when using them,” Ostroskey added. “A few simple precautions can be the difference between enjoying a lazy afternoon by the pool and spending the day in the emergency room,” Ostroskey said. “Call 9-1-1 when you first suspect something is wrong and keep everyone away from chemicals in the fresh air.”
Last season, local fire departments and national hazardous materials teams responded to several emergencies involving pool chemicals:
- In June 2020, a Whitman resident caused several minor explosions while mixing two pool chemicals. The resident suffered minor hearing damage from the explosions.
- In July 2020, pool chemicals mixed inside an Agawam house sent two people to hospital. A very similar incident a few days later in West Bridgewater resulted in another person being transported to hospital.
- Last August, a Medway pool owner mixed the “shock” of the pool in a 5 gallon bucket in her kitchen. The mixture foamed and overflowed onto the floor. The woman was able to escape the dangerous chlorine vapor, but was unable to clean up the spill safely.
- Last fall, a Wareham resident had three 1-pound bags of pool “shock” causing a chemical reaction in his backyard after the chemical got wet.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, more than 4,000 people nationwide visit the hospital with injuries from pool chemicals each year.
Safety tips for handling chemicals in the swimming pool
- Mix outdoor pool chemicals only in a well-ventilated area.
- Use gloves, eye protection and masks as directed on the packaging.
- Children should never handle pool chemicals, and even teenagers shouldn’t do so without constant adult supervision.
- Put a lid on chemical containers whenever you are done. When containers are left open, water can enter and react with chemicals. Remember: powder in water, not water in powder.
- Thoroughly clean tools and equipment used to handle a chemical before using them with another chemical.
- Spilled substances (from damaged containers or accidents) should be cleaned up and disposed of properly to avoid creating an inadvertent chemical reaction.
- Mixing chemicals can cause a chemical reaction that can generate temperatures high enough to ignite nearby combustible materials. Mixing can also lead to the release of highly toxic and hazardous chlorine gas.
Storage of pool chemicals
Proper storage of chemicals in the pool is important. Pool owners should review the way they store their pool chemicals to identify and correct situations where chemicals could be intentionally or accidentally mixed. Make sure you:
- Separate incompatible substances. The most common pool chemicals are inherently incompatible with each other, so be sure to keep them separate.
- Avoid storing containers of liquids on top of containers of powders or other incompatible substances to avoid accidental mixing caused by leaking containers.
- Avoid mixing old chemicals with fresh chemicals, even if they are of the same type.
- Use separate, designated spoons for each chemical. Handle only one chemical at a time and ensure that tools used with one substance are not used with another unless all residue is removed.
- Use separate, designated containers for cleaning up spilled material to prevent accidental mixing of spilled material. Consult your local hazardous waste disposal center for more detailed information on proper waste disposal.
- Store pool chemicals outside of the house or attached garage. A locked free-standing hangar is recommended.
- Lock down your storage area to prevent children, pets, and unauthorized users from entering.
- Keep your storage area free of rags, trash, debris, or other materials that could clutter the area. Keep combustible and flammable substances away from the area.
Appropriate disposal of chemicals
Don’t throw old pool chemicals in the trash or down the drain. Bring old chemicals to a household hazardous waste collection day in your community or to a commercial hazardous waste facility. Since sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is the same chemical used in most water treatment facilities, check to see if your local plant accepts the chemical.
For more information on how to store and use pool chemicals safely, see the following organizations:
United States Centers for Disease Control
US Environmental Protection Agency