Study Estimates 28,000 Pool Chemical Illnesses in 2002-08

Published in the Oct. 7 issue of CDC's MMWR, the study examined data from six states participating in the SENSOR program and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Forty percent of state cases were work-related.

Authors who analyzed illnesses and injuries associated with swimming pool chemicals from 2002 to 2008 estimate 28,071 cases occurred nationwide during those years. The nine authors of "Acute Illness and Injury from Swimming Pool Disinfectants and Other Chemicals –- United States, 2002-2008," which is published in the Oct. 7 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, base their estimate on data from six states participating in the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risk (SENSOR) -- Pesticides surveillance program and from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

The authors work for state health departments in California, Louisiana, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, and Iowa or for NIOSH or CDC. They identified 584 cases of illness or injury associated with pool chemicals in the six states during the period, and 306 of them -– 52 percent -- occurred in California. For the 77 percent of state cases and 49 percent of NEISS cases that had sufficient information to determine factors contributing to the illness or injury, the most common contributing factors included mixing incompatible products, spills and splashes of chemicals, lack of appropriate PPE, and dust clouds or fumes generated by opening use a chemical container. Adhering to existing CDC recommendations can prevent some of the incidents, "but additional measures (e.g., improving package design to limit the release of dust clouds and fumes when a container is opened, making containers child-proof, and making product labels easier to understand) might reduce them further," they conclude.

In the six states, a case of poisoning associated with pool disinfectants was defined as two or more acute adverse health effects resulting from exposure to any pool disinfectant. NEISS cases were those involving exposure to swimming pool chemicals, and state cases were excluded if the event occurred during crop farming activities.

Cases were most frequently poisonings at private residences, followed by nonmanufacturing facilities, which included hotels and health clubs. Forty percent of state cases were work-related, and 9 percent of these involved the loss of at least one day from work. Only 2 percent of state cases and 4 percent of NEISS cases resulted in hospitalization, however.

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