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Pool chemicals accident creates toxic vapors; 18 sent to hospital

It is almost October, and that means winter is just around the corner. And who knows how long it will last? For many families, there comes a time when everyone needs a break from the cold and the sloppy streets, but warm weather holidays are often not in the budget. What is possible is an in-town getaway, a weekend at an Albany area hotel.

Aside from cleanliness and comfort, there is one must-have for that hotel: To keep the kids busy, the place has to have a pool.

Guests at an out-of-state resort were probably thinking the same thing when they made their reservations. Instead of a relaxing swim, though, more than a dozen people got a trip to the hospital.

A hotel employee accidentally mixed chemicals used to keep pool water clean and to keep the pool's pH content at a comfortable level. The two chemicals, chlorine and muriatic acid, are commonly used to disinfect pool water, but they have to be handled carefully. When mixed, they create ammonium chloride, a gas or vapor that is causes irritation to the respiratory system. Depending on the amount of gas the victim comes in contact with, the injury can be anything from burning in the nose to serious and lasing lung damage.

All of the people involved in this incident were treated and released from the hospital. The area was blocked off while chemical experts worked to solve the problem. The whole operation took several hours.

Pool companies in the area say they have stopped supplying muriatic acid to their customers and moved to a safer chemical. The risk may be smaller with the new product, but it still exists: Mixed with chlorine, a toxic gas will result. The best way to prevent accidents, one supplier said, is to train personnel properly.

Sources: 

Carolina Live/News Channel 15, "Chemicals required to make pools safe can also be dangerous," Joel Allen, Sep. 24, 2013

WBTW News 13, "18 people treated, released after pool chemical situation at Myrtle Beach resort," Sep. 24, 2013

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