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Pool Safety… Don’t Let a Dip End Up in a Trip to The Emergency Room

May 21–27, 2018 is Healthy and Safe Swimming Week.

Date: May 24, 2018
Number: 18-030
Contact: Charlotte Fadipe | 916.445.3974 |

SACRAMENTO – With summer approaching and as people head to swimming pools to cool off, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR)) reminds people to avoid putting too much chlorine in their pools.

In the last ten years (2006-2015), 534 people in California have been exposed and sickened by too much pool chlorine, according to DPR's Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program.  More than half of them were at public facilities when the incidents occurred. About 66 percent of the total incidents did not appear to be related to malfunctioning equipment.

Chlorine (solid or liquid) is a pesticide used in swimming pools to destroy germs that can cause human illnesses, including germs from feces, urine, saliva and other substances. But excessive exposure to chlorine can cause sickness and injuries including rashes, coughing, nose or throat pain, eye irritation, and an exacerbation of asthma.

"Whether you are a homeowner with a pool or you run a public water park or community pool, you must follow all of the manufacturer's instructions and not exceed the amount of chlorine specified," said Brian Leahy, Director of DPR. "The directions for use on the label are both state and federally approved to ensure safety. The 'label is the law' when it comes to disinfectants, and its directions for use must be followed." 

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is joining DPR during Healthy and Safe Swimming Week in urging pool operators and the public to always follow manufacturers' instructions for the proper use of chlorine in swimming pools. These instructions usually allow a maximum of 4 parts per million when people are in the pool. This level is prudent and can disinfect pools. Using chlorine at a higher concentration when people are in the pool may result in adverse effects to their health.

California local health agencies and the public are advised to always follow the label for pool disinfectants.

Additionally, public pool operators should ensure automatic chlorination equipment is always well maintained and operated according to manufacturer's specifications. Employees should be trained to operate the equipment safely and be prepared to respond when malfunctions occur.

Public pools are inspected by local health agencies to confirm that they adhere to safety requirements and state laws regarding pool disinfection.

Safe handling of chemicals is as important as avoiding excess chlorination. DPR and CDPH urge people to:

  • Dispose of all pool chemicals and their packaging according to the directions provided on the label.
  • Store chemicals according to the label instructions or safety data sheets.
  • Keep all pool chemicals out of the reach of children.
  • Shower before and after you get into a pool because your skin can react with pool water chlorine.

Additional resources on healthy swimming:

California Department of Public Health:

Centers for Disease Control:

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