You can finally add “swimming pools” to your running list of seemingly mundane-but-murderous-pastimes. At around 7pm EDT on Monday, local authorities in Tampa responded to an emergency call involving five sick children at a local pool. As reported by ABC News and others, a “cloud of chlorine gas” appeared in the Calypso Pool hours after a thunderstorm had caused one of the water pumps to spontaneously switch off. The children were rushed to the hospital after expressing stomach discomfort and nausea. Thankfully, it seems like no one was seriously injured.
How a cloud of chlorine suddenly appeared in an indoor pool is troubling to say the least. According to the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, the pump that malfunctioned after the thunderstorm “pushed the chemical mix into the pool causing a small cloud of chlorine gas.”
Though representatives from Calypso Pool told ABC News the incident was a “freak accident,” similar outbreaks have occurred before. In 2012, eight swimmers at a public pool in Topeka, Kansas were hospitalized after being hit in the face—and elsewhere—by a cloud of chlorine. Possibly the most severe case was in 2014, when a small chlorine gas cloud appeared at a water park in Michigan. The incident caused roughly 50 people to receive treatment after they reported breathing problems.
In this latest case, a malfunction with the equipment does indeed appear to have been responsible for the chlorine cloud.
“What’s happening here is they’re using some type of hypochlorite or another chemical as a disinfectant,” Frankie Wood-Black, principal of Sophic Pursuits, Inc. and an instructor at Northern Oklahoma College, told Gizmodo. “Looking at this story, [it] appears they’ve had a malfunction in their disinfecting equipment and that it actually caused a buildup of whatever chemical they were using. Because of that, they pushed a slug.” Basically, once the pump restarted, it appears to have pushed out a horrible nightmare cloud of toxic gas.
While chlorine clouds in public pools receive the most media attention, Wood-Black explained that incidents like this happen in people’s home pools fairly frequently.
“There are a lot of residential poisonings that occur because somebody has mixed bleach improperly with another chemical,” she said. “That gas that you get when you mix bleach improperly is chlorine gas. Unforunately it is not all that uncommon, because people don’t understand what they’re mixing.”
So how can a responsible pool owner prevent chlorine clouds from bubbling up?
“Read and follow the label,” Wood-Black said.