Summertime is a great time for splashing around in the swimming pool, especially on these warm summer days. Unfortunately in the last month there have been several explosions in Missouri homes caused by the improper mixing of pool chemicals resulting in trips to hospital emergency rooms and serious damage to homes.
In one incident the reacting pool chemicals caused a 20-foot radius chemical splash and produced noxious vapors. A woman was air lifted to a hospital in St. Louis with respiratory issues and chemical burns to the face and upper torso. A man was transported by ambulance with respiratory issues. A small dog died at the scene.
In another incident the pool chemicals exploded. Two people were taken to the hospital and two dogs were also hospitalized. The kitchen ceiling, floor and surfaces were coated with pool chemicals which required extensive decontamination to remove the chemicals from all surfaces.
In both of these incidents, the department’s emergency responders mobilized to the scene, donning protective equipment including supplied breathing air in tanks to decontaminate the residence.
Do not let that splash of pool chemicals be the last thing you hear before an explosion. To avoid some of the hazards inherent with chemicals there are some important guidelines to follow when adding chemicals to your pool water.
1) READ THE LABELS, INSTRUCTIONS AND WARNINGS on the bottles or buckets of chemicals you are using.
2) Pool chemicals are meant to be added to large quantities of water. Do not add water to mix with the dry pool chemicals as this could cause a heat-generating reaction. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Pool chemicals may become a hazard when they become wetted by a small quantity of water or when they are improperly mixed, such as with other chemicals or reactive materials.” For more information read the Safe Storage and Handling of Swimming Pool Chemicals.
3) Do not mix chemicals.
4) Add pool chemicals separately, outside and never indoors.
Remember, even common pool chemicals are not compatible with each other. Mixing chemicals can release highly toxic and corrosive chlorine gas. Do not mix new chemicals with old chemicals. Keep chemicals away from flammable or combustible materials.
According to American Chemistry Council Pool Chemistry 101:
Basic Rules of Thumb
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Store chemicals in a cool, dry and shaded place.
- Never mix different types of chlorine—add each to the pool separately.
- Never mix chemicals together—add each to the pool separately.
- Avoid breathing fumes or vapors.
- Don’t buy more pool chemicals than you’ll use in a season – they lose effectiveness over time.
- Make sure pool chemicals are inaccessible to children.
Following these simple instructions will help keep your summer safer and allow you to enjoy fun in the sun.
The Environmental Emergency Response Section is called to the scene of more than 300 emergencies each year. The department’s 24-hour spill line receives more than 1,600 incident reports annually.
To report an environmental emergency, including fuel spills, please contact the spill line at (573) 634-2436.