Swimming Pool Chemicals

Pool chemicals help protect the health of swimmers and maintain overall water quality. Follow these recommendations for safe storage and handling to prevent pool chemical injuries.

Helpful Tips to Avoid Injury

  • Educate yourself about pool chemicals.
  • Read labels before using chemicals and follow instructions.
  • Follow correct chemical storage guidelines.
  • Keep chemicals out of reach of children.
  • Wear proper personal protective equipment when handling chemicals.

In Case of Poisoning

  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. Keep this number clearly posted in your home and stored in your phone.
  • Call 911 for emergency medical help immediately if someone stops breathing, collapses, or has a seizure.
    • If someone has difficulty breathing, move them to fresh air. Call 911 if they continue to have severe difficulty or stop breathing.
    • If chemical comes in contact with eyes, flush eyes with running water.
    • If chemical comes in contact with skin, remove any contaminated clothing and flush skin with running water.

A Rockland County homeowner mixed calcium hypochlorite (pool shock treatment) and hydrochloric acid in an aluminum pan in the kitchen of their home. The chemicals reacted and produced hydrogen and chlorine gas, resulting in an explosion. The explosion blew out a window and sent two adults to the hospital with breathing problems. Four firefighters required decontamination at the scene. The homeowner was advised not to re-enter the home until a hazmat contractor could be hired to complete the cleanup.

A homeowner in Chautauqua County was applying stabilized chlorinating tablets to his swimming pool. The warning on the product label indicated that proper eye protection was necessary while using the tablets. He did not wear proper eye protection and dust from the product got into his eyes. He called the Poison Control Center and followed up with his healthcare provider.

What to Do:

  • Educate yourself about pool chemicals.
  • Read the product label and directions before each use. Follow manufacturer's instructions.
  • Store pool chemicals in original labeled containers.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment and keep it clean and ready to use.
  • Use dry tools to handle pool chemicals.
  • Wash hands after working with pool chemicals.
  • Keep children and animals away from pool chemicals.
  • When mixing pool chemicals, first pour the water then add the chemicals; never pour water into chemicals.
  • Use a separate, designated tool for each pool chemical.
  • Respond to pool chemical spills immediately by following an emergency response plan and using separate dedicated materials to clean up spills.

What Not to Do:

  • Do not add water to pool chemicals. Instead, add pool chemicals to the water.
  • Do not smoke while handling pool chemicals.
  • Do not store or consume food or beverages near handling locations.
  • Do not use a chemical from an unlabeled container.
  • Do not unseal more than one container at a time.
  • Do not mix different types of pool chemicals together.
  • Do not mix old and fresh chemicals, even if the same product.
  • Do not use a tool or piece of equipment for more than one chemical.
  • Do not pour chemicals down the drain or sewer. Contact your local hazardous waste disposal facility for more information.

A homeowner in Suffolk County dumped five one-pound bags of pool shock into the pool chlorinator. Their actions produced chlorine gas and an explosion. The police, fire department, and emergency medical services responded. The resident was transported to the hospital with severe burns to the face, respiratory irritation, and central nervous system and heart problems.

What to Do:

  • Know your pool chemical levels before making an adjustment.
  • Test your water with strips or chemical kits that are not expired.
  • Adjust pool chemistry with products that are not expired.
  • Read and follow label instructions.
  • Keep pool chemicals out of reach of children.
  • Use a separate, designated tool for each pool chemical.
  • Add acid to water, do not add water to acid.
  • Dissolve powders/crystals in water before adding to pool water.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment and keep it clean and ready to use.

What Not to Do:

  • Do not use a tool or piece of equipment for more than one chemical.
  • Do not mix chemicals.
  • Do not pour chemicals into the swimming pool while people are in the water.

At a Rensselaer County home, a lid was left open on a five-gallon pail that contained chlorine tablets allowing moisture to enter the pail. The chlorine tablets reacted with the water, producing chlorine gas and a strong odor in the area. An environmental agency and a hazardous materials team responded to the home and conducted cleanup.

Chemical wetting is the addition of a limited volume of water to a chemical. Chemical wetting is dangerous because it can produce an unwanted chemical reaction and release a toxic gas.

Potential sources of water:

  • Leaks from roofs, windows, doors, wall and floor joints, water pipes, hoses, sprinkler systems, and drains.
  • Moisture from air when the humidity is high.

Ways to prevent chemical contact with water:

  • Close containers properly and tightly.
  • Seal opened or damaged packaging in waterproof containers.
  • Store chemicals off the floor and away from doors and windows.
  • Check for roof leaks, open or broken windows, or leakage from water pipes, hoses or sprinkler systems.
  • Check for faulty or clogged floor drains.
  • Be careful when water is used for cleanup of areas near stored packages.

What to Do:

  • Comply with building and fire codes.
  • Store pool chemicals away from children and animals.
  • Store pool chemicals as recommended by manufacturer and in original, labeled containers.
  • Store pool chemicals in cool location away from heat, direct light, doors, and windows.
  • Protect stored chemicals from mixing together or with other substances. Store each pool chemical separately.
  • Store only identical chemicals above or below each other. This will prevent chemical mixing in case of a leak.
  • Keep storage area clean and neat.
  • Dispose of deteriorating, unwanted or unlabeled pool chemicals safely. Contact your local hazardous waste disposal facility for more information.

What Not to Do:

  • Do not store containers of any pool chemical directly on the floor.
  • Do not store or consume food and beverages near chemicals.
  • Do not store pool chemicals near incompatible or flammable materials.

When designing an area to store pool chemicals, keep the following in mind:

  • Consult with your local fire department for guidance.
  • Have adequate lighting for reading labels on containers.
  • Prevent water entry. Check for leakage from roofs, windows, water pipes, hoses or sprinkler systems.
  • Keep chemicals off the floor and store chemicals on pallets or shelves.
  • Anchor shelves to prevent tipping. Use shelves with a lip or other means of preventing chemical containers from falling off.
  • Make sure there is enough room to move around the space without bumping chemical containers.
  • Do not stack chemical containers.
  • Lock the chemical storage area to limit access, especially to children and animals.
  • Post signs that identify chemical hazards in the storage area.

Additional Information