Strong chemical odor from pool? What it really means

(Photo: AP)

TAMPA (WFLA) – The strong chlorine odor coming from a public or a backyard pool isn’t what we all probably think it is, according to the survey posted by the Water Quality and Health Council.

The council together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Swimming Pool Foundation conducted a survey asking people what the strong chemical or chlorine smell coming from the pool means.

They asked 1500 Americans. About 76 percent of the responders said the smell probably meant too much chlorine in the pool; 19 percent said that the odor probably signified that the amount was just right.

Related: WATE 6 On Your Side’s Tearsa Smith learns how to swim

They were both wrong.

Water quality experts explained that properly treated clean pools don’t have a strong chemical smell. But when chlorine in water combines with too much urine or fecal matter, sweat and dirt from swimmers’ bodies, chemical irritants called chloramines are produced. They are to blame for the chemical odor and eye irritation. They also use up the chlorine in water, leaving less to kill germs.

So how to tell if the water in the pool you are about to jump in is actually clean? Experts suggest this checklist:

— Are the pH and chlorine level correct? Use a test strip to check.
— Standing at the edge of the pool, can you see the drain in the bottom of the deep end?
— Do drain covers on the bottom of the pool appear to be secure and in good repair?
— Is a lifeguard on duty? If a lifeguard is not on duty, is safety equipment (for example, a rescue ring or pole) available?
— Is the area around the pool free of strong chemical odors?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you need to stay out of the water.

“If you identify any health or safety issues, tell the pool operator, so the problem can be fixed,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. “If the pool operator does not fix the problem, contact your local or state health department and report the problem.”

You can get free test kit as part of the Water Quality and Health Council’s award-winning summer Healthy Pools campaign. Click here to get yours.

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