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Mineral Pools, are they chlorine free?

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Mineral Pools, are they chlorine free?

With the craze of ‘mineral’ pools that has hit the pool industry over the last 5 or so years, its important to understand how it all works.

Let’s start with where it all began, the backyard salt (sodium salt) chlorinator. All you had to do was throw in bags of salt and walk away. Ahhhhh that salt water beach feeling! No more manually dosing the pool with chlorine sanitiser either.

Then came along the ‘Mineral’ salt (blends of salts and trace elements, magnesium + potassium + calcium + zinc + copper + iron) chlorinator. It’s driving force the ability of the minerals and trace elements to be dermally absorbed into the skin while swimming to alleviate muscle aches, bring oxygen to the body’s cells, alleviate eczema, relax the nervous system and even soften the water.

Sodium salts or magnesium salts alone are NOT a sanitiser! However, they are both used to make chlorine (sodium hypochlorite), which is a sanitiser.

So how do we make chlorine out of salts? Electrolysis!

The process involves passing salt water (which is a good electrical conductor) through what is called a ‘cell housing’, which houses a cell, made of a series of flat titanium plates coated with iridium and ruthenium and aligned parallel to each other in the cell housing. Electricity is applied to these titanium plates, which separates the chemical bonds of the salts (sodium chlorine/ magnesium chloride) and in the process creates chlorine gas (Cl2), hydrogen gas (h2) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The chlorine gas reacts with water (H2O) to form Sodium hypochlorite.

For the chlorinators to work they require specific levels (anywhere from 2500ppm up to 8500ppm) of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), which a big component of is achieved by the addition of salts. If there is not a sufficient level of TDS the chlorinator will not produce chlorine. If the level of TDS is too high the chlorinator will shut off in order to prevent overload on the cell.

Fresh water chlorination is a whole new kettle of fish! These systems run with very low TDS levels, as low as 1200ppm. They don’t require salt or minerals to be added to the water to produce chlorine, as typically once the pool is filled with water and balanced with chemicals (calcium, alkalinity, acid) the TDS level is sufficient for operation of the fresh water chlorinators to start producing chlorine.

It is a good time to note that a sanitiser level maintained by salt, mineral or fresh water chlorinators (2-4ppm) will not remove inorganic and organic waste products (food source for bacteria), nor destroy chlorine by-products (irritants to the skin and eyes) and does very little for chlorine resistant parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

19/12/2019

Haloacetic Acids Disinfectant byproduct

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Another set of chlorine disinfectant byproduct (DBPs)

Haloacetic acids (HAAs) are formed, along with other Trihalomethanes (THMs) and chlorate, when chlorine is used as a disinfectant in water, which in turn reacts with organic waste products, which are continually being contributed to the water (e.g. by swimmers), to form chlorine disinfectant byproducts (DBPs). This is the exact primary sanitation process that takes place at your local swimming pool.

There are 9 known HAAs, Australia regulates the first 5 of these 9 in drinking water. These levels are compared to that of the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested levels below:

Australia

(WHO)

Health risk

1. Monochloroacetic acid (MCAA)

<0.15ppm

<0.02ppm

Group 3

2. Dichloroacetic acid (DCAA)

<0.1ppm

<0.05ppm

Group 2B

3. Trichloroacdetic acid (TCAA)

<0.1ppm

<0.2ppm

Group 2B

4. Monobromoacetic acid (MBAA)

<0.15ppm

<0.2ppm

Group 3

5. Dibromoacetic acid (DBAA)

<0.1ppm

<0.05ppm

Group 2B

6. Bromochloroacetic acid (BCAA) Group 2B
7. Bromodichloroacetic acid (BDCAA) <0.1ppm <0.5ppm Group 3
8. Dibromochloroacetic acid (DBCAA) Group 3
9. Tribromoacetic acid (TBAA) Group 3

Below are the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) category group explanations as per scientific studies conducted:

-The category Group 1 is labelled ‘Carcinogenic to humans.’

-The category Group 2A is labelled ‘Probably carcinogenic to humans.’

-The category Group 2B is labelled ‘Possibly carcinogenic to humans.’

-The category Group 3 is labeled ‘Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity.’

As a result of prolonged exposure to the above HAAs, Increased incidences of tumors in several organs including the liver and kidney, as well as effects to the male sperm and its production were identified in the experimental studies conducted on both rats and mice.

“There are no epidemiological studies of TCA carcinogenicity in humans. Most of the human health data for chlorinated acetic acids concern components of complex mixtures of water disinfectant byproducts. These complex mixtures of disinfectant byproducts have been associated with increased potential for bladder, rectal, and colon cancer in humans [reviewed by Boorman et al. (1999); Mills et al. (1998)].”

Trihalomethanes (THMs) are also regulated in Australia in drinking water, with the limit being <0.25ppm.

A question I am left with is: Why are HAAs and THMs regulated in Australia for drinking water, however they’re NOT regulated in Australia for the commercial pool industry?

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

 

25/10/2019

Healthy or unhealthy workplace?

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“Historically, the heaviest mass inhalational exposures to chlorine resulted from World War I gassing. Currently potential human exposure to chlorine inhalation occurs in a variety of settings in the workplace”. Today’s discussion is the indoor swimming pool!

You know that pungent “chlorine” smell that hits you in the face when you walk into the pool area, it also gets stuck to your skin/hair and swimmers, the sudden shortness of breath, random cough, or maybe the red itchy or dry skin that develops into a rash or maybe that hair loss or those red stinging eyes and even those headaches you get?

Chances are you have experienced one or more of the above during or after swimming, but you shrug it off, just accepting it is all part of the job.

So, say you don’t shrug it off and instead you educate yourself by doing some research; sticking only to credible sources of information. You might come across the following:

“Chlorine species are highly reactive; tissue injury results from exposure to chlorine, hydrochloric acid, hypochlorous acid, or chloramines. Acute, high level exposure to chlorine gas in occupational or environmental settings results in a variety of doserelated lung effects ranging from respiratory mucus membrane irritation to pulmonary edema. Pulmonary function testing can reveal either obstructive or restrictive deficits immediately following exposure, with resolution over time in the majority of cases. However, some of those exposed may demonstrate long-term persistent obstructive or restrictive pulmonary deficits or increased nonspecific airway reactivity after high level exposure to chlorine gas”.

“As with all human and technological intervention, the use of chlorine-based products to disinfect swimming water may lead to a number of unwanted effects, in particular the presence of chlorine-containing compounds in the air. Consequently, chlorination may affect the respiratory health of either those who work as swimming attendants or instructors”.

But let’s say you are just a lifeguard and don’t even get in the water, but you still find yourself developing some health problems. You tell yourself ‘it can’t be the pool; I don’t get in the water’. Well think again!

Research shows whilst you absorb chemical by-products (mono-chloramine and dichloramines) dermally while in the water, you also inhale the gaseous forms of byproducts (tri-chloramines) known as nitrogen trichloride, when reacted with water. They are part of the chlorine by-product group called Trihalomethanes (THM’s).

“Swimming-pool asthma due to airborne nitrogen trichloride can occur in workers who do not enter the water because of this chloramine. The air above indoor swimming pools therefore needs to be assessed and managed as carefully as the water”.

According to Wikipedia, Nitrogen trichloride, trademarked as Agene, was at one time used to bleach flour, but this practice was banned in the United States in 1949 due to safety concerns.

Despite there is plenty of research having been conducted specifically on some health issues associated with swimming pool by-products and their results already published, there is still much more research to be done on other areas of health concerns, which it would seem is also the opinion of our fellow scientists:

“Although the issue of the chlorination of public water supplies has received considerable attention, mainly with regard to the presence of potentially carcinogenic or teratogenic chlorinated by-products, the respiratory hazards of chlorinated swimming water have been less well addressed. Thus, old and even more recent reports on indoor pollution do not deal with the air of chlorinated swimming pools, despite the generally obvious and readily noticeable irritant character of this type of environment”.

Written by John Morrison BSc

References:

 

25/07/2019
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