By Rick Montgomery
For the Salisbury Post, July 26, 2012
The Salisbury Post’s recent article concerning a chemical reaction while mixing pool shock with water was of great interest to me, as I have been in the swimming pool business for more than 30 years.
First, pool chemicals should never be stored, or taken, inside the home. All pool chemicals are harmful if ingested or misused. They should always be stored where children or animals do not have access to them.
The affected couple are not my customers, but this was the second occurrence of an injury of that type of which I am aware. A woman in Charlotte also experienced chemical burns while mixing pool shock in water. While I am not familiar with the exact cause of the Salisbury accident, I am familiar with the Charlotte occurrence.
Before mass merchandisers started selling pool chemicals, pool shock was generally calcium hypochlorite. It should be pre-dissolved in water if you are using the product in a vinyl-lined pool. It has a ph of 11.8 and is a strong oxidizer. It is sold in bulk sizes and also in 1-pound bags labeled “pool shock.”
This product is generally sold today only by professional swimming pool dealers.
They may also sell lithium hypochlorite (ph of 10.7), sodium di-clor (ph of 6.9) or powdered tri-chlor (ph of 2.9). The problem for the consumer is that all of these products may be labeled as “pool shock.”
Mass merchandisers, due to calcium hypochlorite being a strong oxidizer, are now selling 1-pound bags of powdered tri-chlor or sodium di-chlor labeled as “pool shock.” Tri-clor is very hard to dissolve in water, and in my opinion should never be used in a vinyl-lined swimming pool, as it may cause discoloration of the liner if not completely dissolved.
Any of the different types of shock mentioned above should never be mixed together in a bucket of water. For example, if a consumer purchases powdered tri-chlor labeled as “pool shock” and has a different bag labeled “pool shock” that is calcium hypochlorite and adds them together in a bucket of water, it will create a chemical reaction that will cause serious burns and possibly a fire.
Calcium hypochlorite will support combustion, and one must avoid mixing it with acids, ammonia, tri-chlor or just about anything but water. This was the cause of the Charlotte accident, which made the local news last year. Two different types of “pool shock,” calcium hypochlorite and powdered tri-clor, were mixed with water in a bucket. The woman was hospitalized and treated for chemical burns.
All types of chlorine are dangerous. Consumers should never mix any pool chemicals together that are not identical. Reading labels before purchasing is extremely important. Check the small print to assure compatibility with the products you already have.
Breathing fumes when opening a pail of chlorine is very dangerous and should be avoided.
If you don’t want to use any chlorine products, you can investigate alternate pool sanitation systems. For example, my preference is a salt sanitation system. This is a proven technology that makes chlorine from salt and eliminates purchasing and handling chlorine products.