Tragedy Averted Following Chlorine Leak at Public Pool

DURHAM, NC – Dozens of children were enjoying their summer break at the YMCA pool when they were suddenly told to get out of the water.

One child told authorities that “everyone came out coughing, choking and spitting, feeling light-headed”. They were also complaining of nausea and breathing issues.

Over 40 children were transported to the hospital. Officials say the cause of the leak appears to be a “mechanical issue” -sodium hypochlorite mixed with another chemical giving off noxious fumes. Sodium hypochlorite is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.

In a similar situation in Michigan in April, 7 children were found unconscious in a hotel pool. A 13-year old boy died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

All the children in this incident are expected to be ok. Emergency crews and officials from the YMCA will inspect the pool before it’s allowed to reopen.

In a related story, at Vero Beach, FL,  a pool chlorinating system leak forced the evacuation of a beach hotel and restaurant. 5 people complained of breathing problems. The leak was from a system similar to those used on home pools, officials said.

Emergency workers stayed for hours, working to dissipate the potentially toxic vapors that leaked from part of a hotel pool chlorinating system that is outdoors behind the restaurant.

Chlorine is routinely used in treating home pools. It comes in liquid or tablet form for use in sanitizing water.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency cautions people that:

  •     Chlorine tablets can release toxic gases if exposed to a small amount of water.
  •    Dry chlorine on skin can be activated by perspiration or tears.
  •    Chlorine should be stored in air-tight containers.
  •    Hoses and pipes should be checked where water flows through chlorine tablets.