Health & Wellness

Pool Chemical Injuries Lead to Over 4,500 Emergency Department Visits Each Year

Pool chemical injuries led to an estimated 4,535 U.S. emergency department visits annually during 2008-2017, according to a report published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Although injuries from pool chemicals are preventable, the number of serious injuries from these chemicals has not changed much in the last 15 years. The thousands of emergency department visits underscore the need to raise awareness about safely handling pool chemicals.

Inhaling chemicals causes the most common injury

CDC examined data on emergency department visits due to pool chemical injuries during 2015- 2017. The top diagnosis was poisoning due to breathing in chemical fumes, vapors, or gases—for example, when opening chlorine containers.

Additional findings:

  • Over one-third of these preventable injuries were in children or teens (36%)
  • Over half of pool chemical injuries occurred at a home (56%)
  • About two-thirds of pool chemical injuries occurred during the summer swim season (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day) (65%)

Safety starts with pool owners and operators

Pool chemicals, like chlorine, protect swimmers from the spread of germs and prevent outbreaks linked to pools and water playgrounds. If you own a pool or operate a public pool (for example, at a hotel, waterpark, or community center), take the following steps to prevent pool chemical injuries:

  • Read and follow directions on pool chemical product labels.
  • Wear safety equipment, such as respirators or googles, when handling pool chemicals. Check product labels for directions on what to wear.
  • Keep pool chemicals out of reach of children, teens, and animals (including pets).
  • Never mix different pool chemicals with each other. It is particularly dangerous to mix chlorine and acid.
  • If you operate a public pool, complete the operator training that includes pool chemical safety. Conduct pool chemical safety training for all staff that handle chemicals.

Michele Hlavsa, RN, MPH, CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program

“Summer is a great time to enjoy the pool with friends and loved ones. We all share the water we swim in and can help maintain the right mix of chemicals in the pool. Share the fun, not the pee, sweat, and dirt.”

Swimmers should keep pee, sweat, and dirt out of the pool

When pee, poop, sweat, and dirt from our bodies get into the pool water, they react with chlorine. This reaction decreases the amount of free chlorine available to kill germs and creates chemicals that make eyes red and itchy.

Swimmers and parents of young swimmers can help keep the mix of chemicals in the water healthy and safe by taking a few simple, effective steps:

  • Shower for at least 1 minute before you get into the water. This will remove most of the dirt or anything else on your body.
  • Never pee or poop in the water.
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks and check diapers every hour. Change diapers in a bathroom or diaper changing area.

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week

Healthy and Safe Swimming Week begins on May 20. For more information on healthy and safe swimming tips, visit

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Jessica van Zyl

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Rudy D. Maritz

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