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BioGuard's Five Keys to Basic Pool Care

From BioGuard's Youtube Channel

As any inground swimming pool owner knows, there are few pleasures like taking a plunge into a crystal clear, refreshing, safe and clean swimming pool on a hot summer's day.  By the same token, these people also understand that taking the care to put the pool in that state can be alot of work, and quite inefficient; if one doesn't know what one is doing.  Dumping loads of chemicals into the pool day after day is not what gets the swimming pool to that sweet spot of crystal clear refreshment, and this video from BioGuard gives you the 5 keys to Basic Pool Care that can help the swimming pool owner get that pool ready for the plunge!

The 5 Keys to Basic Pool Care are:

1.  Circulation

2.  Filtration

3.  Cleaning

4.  Testing

5.  Chemistry

Click here to watch the video on the 5 keys to basic pool care

10 Tips for Enjoying Your Backyard This Summer

BioGuard Recommends Ways to Enjoy Family Fun in the Pool and Sun

From BioGuard

Summer is officially over, but it is never too late to plan for a perfect backyard experience.  BioGuard, a swimming pool chemical and supplies provider gives you this great list to plan for next summer.  Some of the great tips included in this list are to make sure your pool rules are in place and refined, ensuring that your backyard landscape and furnishings are clean and serving your entertaining and leisure needs, and that your backayard toys are organized and clean.  This is a great list to help you organize, or even to give you ideas if you are planning a new construction project for next year.

Click here to read about planning the perfect backyard swimming pool experience

BioGuard's Five Keys to Basic Pool Care

from Bioguard's Youtube Channel

If you've ever stared out at your swimming pool and felt overwhelmed, you are definitely not alone.  Proper swimming pool care can be a burden for homeowners, even to the point that they end up letting their pool go.  Bioguard has come up with 5 simple rules that make proper pool care easy, and fun.  Check it out!

Friday, 05 July 2013 08:52

Yuck! What's in your pool water

Yuck! What's in your pool water

from CNN

(TIME.com) -- Chlorine is supposed to take care of most of the microbes floating around in pools, but human waste, it seems, is stubbornly resistant to being sanitized.

That's the conclusion of a group of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who collected water samples from 161 filters in public and private swimming pools, as well as water parks in Atlanta last summer.

What they found trapped in those filters was enough to make swimmers think twice before logging their laps. More than half of the samples were contaminated with E. coli, which the investigators say comes from one primary source -- swimmers pooping in the pool.

The study, published in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, specifically looked at pools in Atlanta, but the researchers say such contamination is likely a widespread problem in U.S. pools, thanks to swimmers not washing themselves off before taking a dip.

According to the scientists, each of us carries about 0.14 grams of fecal material into the pool -- and that doesn't include accidents or cases of diarrhea.

Among municipal pools, the genetic testing for pathogens detected E. coli in 70% of the filters, while 66% of the water parks contained the bacteria and 49% of pools in private clubs showed evidence of the contamination.

"These findings indicate the need for swimmers to help prevent introduction of pathogens, e.g., taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea, (for) aquatics staff to maintain disinfectant level and pH according to public health standards to inactivate pathogens, and state and local environmental health specialists to enforce such standards," the authors write in their report.

When a pool is properly chlorinated, however, bacteria like E. coli should be killed off, since proper pH levels typically take care of the issue. According to the CDC, it takes less than a minute for E. coli to be inactivated if chlorine levels are adequate, about 16 minutes to control Hepatitis A virus, about 45 minutes to kill off the Giardia parasite and over 10 days for a Crypto parasite.

But just one diarrhea accident can cause an infection for anyone who gets a mouth full of pool water. Fortunately, the testing did not reveal strains of E. coli 0157, a particularly virulent form of the bacteria that was responsible for several outbreaks, and deaths, from serious foodborne illnesses.

According to NPR, because the researchers only analyzed the samples for genetic signatures of different pathogens, they couldn't determine whether the bugs were alive, and potentially reproducing in the water, but there were no pool-related diseases reported in Atlanta during the summer the samples were gathered.

Thomas Lachocki, the CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, says that in order to be properly chlorinated, pools should contain 1-4 parts per million of chlorine and pH levels should be within 7.2--7.8.

"You can go to any mass market store and go into the pool chemical aisle and buy test stripes. All of these have chlorine and pH tests. In five seconds, you can do a quick analysis yourself and have an idea of what the various levels are," he says.

But if you don't have the time to do your own testing, look for clear water. "You should always be able to see the bottom of the pool clearly. Usually if the water is cloudy, something with the filter or chemicals isn't right," says Lachocki. "Clear water doesn't mean everything is alright, but cloudy water is an absolute positive sign that something is not right."

Here are some additional recommendations from the CDC for ensuring a bug-free dip:

-- Don't swim when you have diarrhea.

-- Shower with soap before you start swimming.

-- Take a shower to rinse off before you get back into the water.

-- Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.

-- Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

-- Try not to swallow the pool water.

If you have young children:

-- Take children on bathroom breaks every half-hour to hour or check diapers frequently.

-- Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing area and not at poolside where pathogens can rinse into the water.

There may be no way to completely sanitize a pool, but the latest analysis of what could be lurking in the water should motivate lifeguards and pool managers to be more vigilant about testing those waters more frequently. People should outnumber the pathogens in any pool.

This article was initially published on TIME.com.

Don't drink the pool water! It contains a surprising amount of human waste

Wednesday, 03 July 2013 10:23

A Great Primer on Basic Pool Chemistry

Basic Pool Chemistry

from Pool Calculator

Basic Pool Chemistry

FC - Free Chlorine

Free chlorine shows the level of disinfecting chlorine available to keep your pool sanitary. FC should be tested and chlorine added daily, unless you have an automatic feeder or SWG, in which case you can test it every couple of days. FC is consumed by sunlight and by breaking down organic material in your pool. The level of FC you need to maintain depends on your CYA level and how much your pool is used. See The Pool Calculator's suggested FC levels section (towards the bottom) or the Chlorine / CYA Chart at TFP's Pool School for guidelines on the appropriate FC level to maintain based on your CYA level. It is important that you do not allow FC to get too low, or you run the risk of getting algae and/or having an unsafe pool.

FC is raised with bleach, liquid chlorine, liquid shock, trichlor tablets/pucks/sticks, dichlor powder, cal-hypo powder/capsules, or lithium hypochlorite. Only use bleach without any additives, typically labeled unscented or "original scent". Trichlor and dichlor also add CYA and lower pH. Cal-hypo also adds calcium. Lithium hypochlorite tends to be quite expensive.

It is most efficient to raise the FC level in the evening, since none will be lost to sunlight until the next morning. FC normally goes down by itself. If you are in a hurry you can lower FC with a chlorine neutralizer (sodium thiosulfate).

CC - Combined Chlorine

Combined chlorine is an intermediate breakdown product that is created in the process of sanitizing the pool. CC causes the "chlorine" smell many people associate with chlorine pools. If CC is above 0.5 you should shock your pool. CC indicates that there is something in the water that the FC is in the process of breaking down. In an outdoor pool, CC will normally stay at or near zero as long as you maintain an appropriate FC level and the pool gets some direct sunlight.

Potassium monopersulfate (a common non-chlorine shock) will often show up on tests as CC. There is a special reagent you can get to neutralize the potassium monopersulfate so you can get a true CC reading.

TC - Total Chlorine

Total chlorine is the sum of FC plus CC. Inexpensive chlorine tests, such as the common OTO test, which shows TC as different shades of yellow, measure TC because it is easier to test for than FC and CC. In normal operation TC can be used as if it was FC because CC is usually zero. However when you have algae or some other problems, CC levels can be significant and TC becomes useless.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

pH - Acidity/Alkalinity

pH indicates how acidic or basic the water is. pH should be tested daily at first. Once you gain experience with your pool, less frequent monitoring may be appropriate depending on your pool's typical rate of pH change. pH levels between 7.2 and 7.8 are suitable for swimming, while levels between 7.4 and 7.6 are ideal. pH below 7.2 tends to make eyes sting or burn. pH below 7.0 can cause damage to metal parts, particularly pool heaters with copper heat exchange coils. High pH can lead to calcium scaling. pH contributes to the CSI, which indicates the tendency for plaster damage or calcium scaling. Aeration will tend to cause the pH to rise. This can be mitigated by lowering TA.

Many pools will drift up towards higher pH over time. This is particularly true for fresh plaster (particularly in the first month and continuing for perhaps a year) or when TA is high and the water is being aerated (because of a spa, waterfall, fountain, SWG, rain, kids splashing in the pool, etc).

You can raise pH with borax or soda ash/washing soda. Soda ash/washing soda will increase TA more than borax will. You can lower pH with muriatic acid or dry acid. How much you will need for a given pH change depends on several other numbers, most importantly TA and borate. Higher TA and/or borate levels cause you to need larger amounts of chemicals to change the pH.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

TA - Total Alkalinity

Total alkalinity indicates the water's ability to buffer pH changes. Buffering means you need to use a larger quantity of a chemical to change the pH. At low TA levels, the pH tends to swing around wildly. At high TA levels, the pH tends to drift up slowly, or even quickly in extreme cases. TA contributes to the CSI which indicates the tendency for plaster damage or calcium scaling.

The ideal TA level depends on several factors. If you are using acidic chlorine sources, such as trichlor or dichlor, keep TA on the high side, perhaps between 100 and 120. If you have a SWG, or if you commonly run water features such as a spa, waterfall, or fountain, keep TA on the low side, between 60 and 80. Otherwise levels between 70 and 90 are good. Pools with plaster surfaces should factor their CSI into the preferred TA level decision. Pools with vinyl liners can tolerate high TA levels reasonably well.

You can raise TA with baking soda. It is often best to make large TA adjustments in a couple of steps, testing the water after each one, as adding baking soda will also affect the pH and you don't want the pH going out of range. You can lower TA by lowering the pH to between 7.0 and 7.2 with acid and then aerating the water to bring the pH back up. Aeration can be supplied by spa jets, waterfall, fountain, rain, kids splashing, compressed air, or by aiming a return up towards the surface so it breaks the surface of the water and causes bubbles. This process is then repeated until you reach the desired TA.

ATA or CTA - Adjusted or Corrected Total Alkalinity

An adjustment is often made to the measured TA, subtracting out the cyanurate alkalinity, to more closely approximate the alkalinity as CaCO3. The Pool Calculator makes this adjustment automatically when calculating the CSI, so you should enter the unadjusted number directly from the test.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

CH - Calcium Hardness

Calcium hardness indicates the amount of calcium in the water. Over time, water with low calcium levels will tend to dissolve calcium out of plaster, pebble, tile, stone, concrete, and to some extent fiberglass surfaces. You can prevent this from happening by keeping the water saturated with calcium. In a vinyl lined pool there is no need for calcium, though high levels can still cause problems. A plaster pool should have CH levels between 250 and 350 if possible. Calcium helps fiberglass pools resist staining and cobalt spotting. If you have a spa you might want to keep CH at at least 100 to 150 to reduce foaming. CH contributes to the CSI which indicates the tendency for plaster damage or calcium scaling.

You increase CH with calcium chloride, sold as a deicer and by pool stores, or calcium chloride dihydrate, sold by pools stores for increasing calcium. You lower calcium by replacing water.

TH - Total Hardness

Total hardness is the sum of calcium hardness and magnesium hardness. Most test strips report TH instead of CH. The ratio of calcium to magnesium varies. As an approximation you can multiply TH by two thirds to get a rough estimate of CH.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

CYA - Cyanuric Acid

Cyanuric acid, often called stabilizer or sometimes conditioner, both protects FC from sunlight and lowers the effective strength of the FC. The higher your CYA level, the more FC you need to get the same effect. It is important to know your CYA level so you can figure out what FC level to aim for. If you don't have a SWG or problems from extremely high amounts of sunlight, CYA is typically kept between 30 and 50. If you have a SWG or very high levels of direct sunlight, CYA is typically kept between 60 and 80. If you are using an ORP controller, keep CYA below 50.

You increase CYA by adding stabilizer. Solid stabilizer can take up to a week to dissolve, so don't retest your CYA level for a week after adding some. You can add stabilizer to the skimmer, in which case you must not backwash or clean the filter for the next week. You can also put stabilizer in a sock and hang the sock near a return. The only practical way to lower CYA is to replace water.

Return to The Pool Calculator.


Salt is required with a SWG. Salt can also be added to the water to enhance the subjective feel of the water. For a SWG, check the manual for the correct salt level for your unit. This level will typically around 3,000, but different models vary. For improved water feel, try levels around 2,000. These levels are less then one tenth of the salt level in ocean water, which has around 35,000 ppm of salt. People vary in their ability to taste low levels of salt. A few people can taste salt levels as low as 1,000, others not until 3,500 or more.

Having salt in the water just slightly increases the risk of corrosion, particularly to surfaces that water splashes onto where the water can evaporate, leaving high concentrations of salt behind. This is normally only a problem for stone work above the water line made from softer kinds of stone. There is a lack of solid information about the salt corrosion risks for many materials, leading to debate about the overall level of risk. Most people with salt in their water do not experience any problems.

Salt can be added using solar salt, sold for use in water softeners (sodium chloride). You want the kind that is 99.4% pure or better and which doesn't have any rust inhibitor or other additives. Crystals are fine. Pellets will work but dissolve slightly more slowly. Pool store salt generally costs more and is more finely ground, but even pellets dissolve quickly enough so that isn't really any advantage. Potassium chloride can be used but you will need 17% more of it and it costs more.

Return to The Pool Calculator.


Borates can be used to control pH drift due to a SWG or high aeration levels. Borates also help to control algae. Various subjective water quality/feel improvements are also attributed to borates. If you are not intentionally using borates there is no need to test for them. To use borates to control pH rise and algae, add borates to between 30 to 50 ppm.

With borate levels at 30 or above there is a chance that pets which drink the majority of their water from the pool might have some problems. Since pets should always be trained to not drink pool water, this shouldn't be a problem.

You increase borates by adding borax and acid, or by adding boric acid. 20 Mule Team Borax can be found in the laundry detergent section of most large grocery stores. Boric acid is available over the Internet. You lower borates by replacing water. Proteam's Supreme, Bioguard's Optimizer Plus, Omni's Maximizer, and Poolife's Endure all contain borates.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

CSI - Calcite Saturation Index

The calcite saturation index is a tool for estimating the likelihood of plaster corrosion or calcite scaling. The LSI, Langelier Saturation Index, is a very similar but slightly less accurate measure. The CSI uses pH, TA, CH, CYA, temperature, Borate, and Salt levels to estimate the likelihood of problems. A low saturation index means the water is likely to dissolve calcite out of plaster, pebble, tile, stone, and concrete surfaces (and perhaps fiberglass) which will eventually cause damage. A high saturation index means the water is likely to deposit calcite scale on the walls of the pool and in the plumbing.

CSI is most sensitive to changes in pH. With a plaster pool, it is best to try and get your CSI a little below zero, so that changes in pH won't shift your pool too far towards corrosion or scaling. With a vinyl pool the CSI can be kept more negative, which makes it very unlikely that pH changes could get the CSI into the range of scaling risk.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

Suggested FC Levels

You need to adjust your FC target level based on your current CYA reading. Higher CYA levels bind up more of the FC, requiring higher FC levels to get the same disinfecting chlorine level. Many people find that a SWG will work with a slightly lower FC level than other forms of chlorine. The normal FC target is given as a range because different pools require different FC levels. If your water starts looking dull or just slightly cloudy try using a higher FC target.

The target FC level is a minimum. You always want the FC level to be at least as high as the target level. FC is commonly lowest in the evening after sunlight has been reducing it all day. If you are adding chlorine once a day in the evening you need to bring the chlorine up to a higher number than this so that your FC level the next evening is at least the target level. How much higher depends on your CYA level, the amount of sunlight that falls on the pool, and how much the pool is used. A CYA of 30 to 50 will generally lose between one half and two thirds of the FC over the course of a sunny day.

Shocking your pool means bringing the FC level up to high levels and holding it there. This will kill anything that might be living in your water and to speed the breakdown of CC. If you have mustard algae you often need to shock at a higher FC level than usual to get rid of the mustard algae. You may also need to move towards the high end of the normal FC range to keep the mustard algae away.

Be careful if your CYA level is really and truly zero. When CYA is really zero you should not bring the FC level above 5. If you have ever used stabilizer or dichlor or trichlor your CYA level won't really be zero. CYA levels up to 15 or 20 can sometimes test as zero. The suggested FC level feature treats a CYA of zero as if it was really one or two.

Return to The Pool Calculator.

Suggested Goal Levels

The Pool Calculator can display suggested goal levels from either traditional sources, or from TroubleFreePool.com. Select the source you would like to use and also your primary source of chlorine and pool surface. Suggested goal levels will be displayed for FC, pH, TA, CH, and CYA. Suggested goals are simply a starting point. There are many situations that are not covered by these basic guidelines.

Return to The Pool Calculator.


Bleach - Liquid Chlorine

Common bleach sold in grocery stores is the same thing as liquid chlorine or liquid shock sold by pool stores in some states. You want bleach without any additives, typically labeled unscented or "original scent". Check the strength of the bleach when comparing prices. Bleach with a higher percentages of sodium hypochlorite is more effective and easier to carry.

ORP - Oxidation Reduction Potential

A kind of sensor that reacts to disinfecting chlorine levels which is used in some systems that automatically feed chlorine into the pool based on the sensor's measurement of the current chlorine level in the pool.

Shock - Shocking Your Pool

Shocking your pool means bringing the FC level up to high levels and holding it there. This will kill anything that might be living in your water and to speed the breakdown of CC. The appropriate FC level to aim for depends on your CYA level.

Algae will fight your attempts to bring the FC level up. You need to test the water and bring the FC level back up to shock level at frequently as possible, preferably at least three times a day, in order to get ahead of algae. Hold the water at shock level until the FC does not change overnight and all CC is eliminated.

When fighting algae you also want to brush the entire pool each day. This will expose any algae growing in biofilms on the walls or floor to the chlorine and allow the chlorine to do it's work. If you have black algae it is particularly important that you vigorously brush the algae as frequently as possible.

SWG - Salt Water Chlorine Generator

A system that turns salt in the water into disinfecting chlorine.

Friday, 28 June 2013 10:34

How Hygienic Is Your Swimming Pool

How Hygienic Is Your Swimming Pool

From Bold Sky

The summers are at its peak and we all love to hit the swimming pool at this time. However, several others are also hitting pool just like us. The club and public swimming pools are very crowded during the summer season. That why is becomes difficult to maintain the hygiene of swimming pools during the hot season. No matter how many times you clean the swimming pool, it is never perfectly hygienic. That is why, some signs can give you hints about the hygiene of the swimming pool you are using. Use the swimming pool only if it is clean. Or else, you might get infected by various diseases. Here are some things that determine the hygiene of swimming pools.

Floating Debris

If you see any floating debris like dry leaves or plastic packets floating in the pool, then never use it. It means that the swimming pool is not cleaned regularly.

Pumping System

Check if there are filters installed under the water of the swimming pools. These filters constantly refresh the water. Placing your hands near the filters will let you know if they are working.

Too Much Chlorine

If the water is an azure or clear blue then the amount of chemicals in the pool are within limits. However, if the pool look dark blue then there is too much chlorine in the water. Chlorine is a chemical added to the swimming pool to keep it clean. But too much chlorine is bad for the skin and hair.

Shower Before The Plunge

Before you take a dip in the pool, always take a thorough shower to wash off the dirt and germs on your body. This is a small step that helps maintain the hygiene of the swimming pool.

Protect Hair And Eye

Always wear a swimming cap and goggles top protect your eyes and hair from the pollutants in the water. Wearing swimming caps reduces hairfall to a great extent and the goggles protect your eyes against harsh chemicals in the swimming pool.

Shower After Swim

After you get out of the pool, scrub your self with an antiseptic soap in the shower. This helps you wash away any germs that might stick to your body after the swim. These basic hygiene tips for swimming pools help you stay healthy in summer.

Thursday, 27 June 2013 10:21

When can my baby go in a pool?

When can my baby go in a pool?

from Baby Center

Even pools that look pristine can harbor dangers for infants. Pools can easily be contaminated with bacteria that cause diarrhea, which can be very dangerous for a young infant.

"For newborns younger than 2 months we really worry about immunity – how vulnerable babies are to illness – so I recommend that parents not take their young infants into swimming pools, lakes, the ocean, and so on," says Howard Reinstein, a pediatrician in Encino, California and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Also keep in mind that babies have more skin relative to their weight when compared with older children, which means babies' body temperature can change very quickly. Because your baby won't be big enough to regulate his body temperature very well until he's about 12 months old, make sure the water's warm enough for him.

"If the water feels chilly to you, it will be really cold for your baby," Dr. Reinstein says. For your baby to be comfortable, the temperature of pool water should be between 85 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit. If he starts shivering, it's time to get out.

It can also be dangerous if the water is too hot. Hot tubs, spas, and pools heated to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit are off limits to children younger than 3. Young children overheat more quickly than adults, and the high temperatures in hot tubs can cause a child's heart to race or pose other dangers.

And of course there's the issue of water safety: Drowning and near drowning are leading causes of death and injury for young children. Keep the following safety tips in mind when you're around any body of water with your child:

The AAP recommends "touch supervision," meaning that an adult stays within arm's reach of an infant or toddler at all times whenever a child is in or near a body of water.

Always hold your baby in the pool, and don't wade into water too deep for you to maintain firm footing.

As soon as your child learns to walk, start teaching him not to run when he's near a pool. Also emphasize that he must never enter the water without an adult nearby to supervise.

Never rely on inflatable toys (like water wings) to keep your child safe from drowning. Have your child wear a personal flotation device (PFD) that fits properly and is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. He should wear the PFD at all times in and around water.

Check out the Coast Guard's website for a list of manufacturers that make PFDs for young children and tips on how to use flotation devices safely.

Thursday, 16 May 2013 09:59

10 Steps to maintaining a clean pool

10 Steps to Maintaining a Clean Pool

from Guardian Pool Fence

If you're lucky enough to have a swimming pool and also lucky enough to have the sun to use it then keeping it clean is all important. You want a pool to be fresh and inviting for everyday use and so you can get the most from this refreshing pastime.

By taking a constant but thorough routine with pool maintenance you can cut down on the work in the long term and also save on a lot of money. It also means there's no need for last ditch attempts to sort something out when something goes wrong. So, here are ten tips to keep your pool sparkling clean and healthy.

  • Maintain the pool by keeping an eye on the pool chemistry a few times a week in summer and around once a week in winter.
  • Keep a close eye on the skimmer basket and clean it out weekly or even more-so if it needs such care.
  • Keep an eye on the hair and lint filter. This will need to be emptied every few weeks and you should ensure that a build-up doesn't occur.
  • Water levels are also something that need inspection and should be adjusted if needed. Ideally they should be at the center of the tile.
  • The in-line chlorinator needs a weekly check-up and if it needs adjustment then you should do so. Check the chlorine readings and ensure they are in the unit to ensure adequate levels of chlorine.
  • Clean the filters. These should be cleaned after a storm or every couple of months. The best way to remember this is to base it around something you do a couple of times a year. If you've extra elements this can be a lot easier to do, if not you will need to use chemicals to clean the filters. Make sure to use eye and glove protection when doing so and make sure the filters are rinsed well.
  • The tile area on the outside of the pool should be cleaned on a weekly basis when the pool is in use or less so when it's not. This can be done by using pressure washing services and will help keep your pool spic and span from build-up.
  • Always keep the chemicals you use stored in the dark and away from direct sunlight as this can cause issues with them.
  • If you do not have an ozone system your pool won't need to be shocked. However, if you do need to shock it does it at night. People swimming soon afterwards should use a non-chlorine shock to clean the pool. Alternatively, it's possible to do so by running your pump for a full day and night with your ozone system. Just ensure you're on 24 hour circulation.
  • Cracks can turn into bigger problems. These should be dealt with through silicone and as we all know prevention is better than cure.
  • Keep vegetation and animals, as well as fertilizers away from the area as they will feed algae in the pool.

These tips should help you keep your pool clean and perfectly usable.


Jacob Ryan is a lover of swimming and the great outdoors and also enjoys fishing.

Xenobiotic Danger in Recreational Water

By Robert Lowry, Aqua Magazine 

What in the world is a "xenobiotic," and why should I be worried about it?

No, it isn't some new kind of disease, bacteria, parasite or organism. It is a term that is used as a catch-all for a number of things. Xeno is Greek for "foreign" and "biotic" is from "bios," which means "life," but also means "biologically active."

Common xenobiotics we encounter daily include household products such as window, countertop and floor cleaners; dishwashing and laundry compounds; and heavy-duty potent chemicals such as degreasers, drain cleaners and oven cleaners. They also include pharmaceutically-active compounds and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Drugs, both legal and illegal, are also considered to be xenobiotics also.

There are many concerns when it comes to providing high-quality drinking water: scarce water sources, droughts, expanding population and well closings. You can add xenobiotics to the list as well. As xenobiotics go down the drain and through the sewer system, septic tanks do not destroy these chemical wastes, resulting in local pollution.

While drinking water quality has gotten better over the past few decades, the lack of fresh, uncontaminated source water has caused municipalities to consider and implement water-recycling practices. It may be easier to remove the contaminants from household wastewater and recycle it rather than removing contaminants from industrial or agricultural polluted source or ground water. However, recycling water poses another question in terms of the xenobiotics present in water and how they may build over time, an idea which plays a large role in the world of recreational water.

Take perchlorate, for example. An example of both a xenobiotic and an endocrine disruptor, perchlorate is the primary ingredient of solid rocket propellant and in munitions beginning since the 1950s. Perchlorate is also used in the production of explosives and fireworks — it adds the blue color to firework displays.

For disposal, perchlorate is often dissolved in water and poured on the ground. It breaks down very slowly in the environment, but it moves quickly through underground and surface water. Wastes from the manufacture and improper disposal of chemicals that contain perchlorate are increasingly discovered in soil and water. Traces of perchlorate have been found in groundwater in virtually every state in the U.S. It has been detected in many rivers and low levels have been found in some lettuce samples and milk.

How does it affect the body? First, perchlorate interferes with iodide uptake into the thyroid gland. Because iodide is an essential component of thyroid hormones, perchlorate disrupts the function of the thyroid. The thyroid helps to regulate metabolism. In children, the thyroid also plays a major role in proper development. Impairment of thyroid function in expectant mothers may impact the fetus and newborn and result in effects including changes in behavior, delayed development and decreased learning capability. Changes in thyroid hormone levels may also result in thyroid gland tumors.

Although the range of health effects for these xenobiotics is broad, all of these compounds are foreign to the living organism in which the health effect is observed, making them xenobiotic.

Prescription medications are formulated to be highly soluble and not readily degradable in the human digestive system. These properties make them persistent in water and not readily degraded by sunlight. Pharmaceutical residuals appear in urine and sweat as a product of their use and subsequent excretion. Other prescription preparations such as topical ointments and lotions for dermal conditions are easily shed into the water upon immersion.

More importantly, these medications appear in sewage in water. When scientists recently tested sewage in Australia for the top 50 different prescription medications, all 50 drugs were present. And after testing streams in 30 states, a study published by the U.S. Geological Survey in March 2002 found trace amounts of everyday products such as soap and prescription drugs in 80 percent of the water sources sampled. Streams showed 95 different chemicals from antibiotics to fragrances.

The bottom line: If municipalities are going to recycle sewage and mix it with source water to meet demands, they have to consider the monitoring and treatment of xenobiotics as well.

The ultimate recycling of water is a commercial recreational water facility (a public swimming pool, spa or hot tub). The water is sometimes used for years before draining or significant dilution.

A study done by J. Alan Beech in 1981 found the amount of pollution per person who enters a pool is 200 mL (milliliters) of sweat and 50 mL of urine. No reliable studies have been done on which to base the amount of urine voided in the water by swimmers. Warren and Ridgeway from Water Research Laboratory, Marlow, England estimated it to be 25-50 mL per swimmer in 1978. Beech estimated it to be much higher for children under 10 years of age. He adopted a value of 50 mL per swimmer.

Kuno from C. C. Thomas in Springfield, IL, reported that an active swimmer in water at 24° C (75°F), when the air temperature was 38° C (100° F) lost approximately 1 liter (1.06 quart) of sweat per hour. For his calculation he assumed 10 percent of the volume or 100 mL/hr. The average time spent in the pool is two hours. The EPA estimates that child swimmers aged 5-9 years spend three hours in pools at a time, teenagers spend six hours and adults one hour. Beech used an average of two hours which produced 200 mL of sweat.

We know drugs appear in sewage. Therefore, it is not a quantum leap to understand that drugs, household cleaners and personal care preparations are present in recreational water.

Of primary concern is the potential for adverse health effects. Drug residual concentrations reported in sewage to date are an order of magnitude (two or more times) below those at which an effective therapeutic dose would result from ingesting the water. [That is in sewage, not in recycled, recreational water that may be years old. The concentrations will be much higher in old recreational water.]

Multiple drugs in the water raises the possibility of drug interactions that may cause health effects not otherwise observed.

Then there is the idea of continuous, multiple or repeated exposure to low levels of these drugs — swimming every day in a drug soup may have untold consequences. It could take one or many exposures over months or years for any symptoms or adverse health effects to appear. This could make finding xenobiotics in recreational water as the culprit nearly impossible. Doctors may not even be able to diagnose the problem, much less the cause.

Imagine if you will, what might be in swimming pool, spa, hot tub, whirlpool, waterslide, waterpark, lazy river or other recreational water. How much and what might be in the water of a recreational facility that has a daily bather load of 9,000 people and has used the same water for 100 days? What about the spa that has 25 people in it all day long and the water is a month old?

If you swallow some pool water, are you ingesting some or all of the commonly prescribed drugs? It is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of all people over the age of 18 years have tried illegal drugs; you may be ingesting some pot, cocaine, heroin, methadone, crack or other drugs. You could be getting extra hormones, amino acids, vitamins or minerals. You could even be getting some extra caffeine or nicotine.

Xenobiotic material has been in the water since the very first pool was ever built. We have just recently been able to analyze it, and we are just now talking about it. And unfortunately, there are no easy tests for xenobiotics or drugs, as they are insignificant on a total dissolved solids test.

We also do not know what any common water sanitizers will do to xenobiotics. They may destroy them. They may do nothing to them. They may chlorinate them, brominate them or oxidize them to unknown byproducts that may be harmful or harmless.

At present for recreational water, the only defense we have against xenobiotics is draining. One draining method used in England and Europe is to drain 30 liters (about 8 gallons) of water per bather per day. This may also reduce the need to superchlorinate.

One recommendation is to use water from an approved potable municipal water treatment facility. This water must meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some 100+ known contaminants are below the level determined safe and it has been tested. Do not use ground water, well water or surface water in a recreational water facility unless the water has been tested by the local health authority and approved for drinking. There is no way of knowing what is in that water without extensive and expensive testing.

As I mentioned earlier, xenobiotics is a hot topic in drinking water right now, meaning it'll naturally trickle down to the pool industry. It won't be long before recreational water comes under scrutiny — will you be ready when your customers start asking about it?

Understanding Water Balance

from Poolgear.com

H2Oh! - Understanding the chemical composition of a healthy swimming pool

Just imagine – your drinking water may not be good enough to swim in. After all, tap water often has high levels of minerals and low pH – two factors that can harm your pool and prevent chemical treatments from doing their job. The two most important things to remember about the health of your pool are that it must be sanitized and it must be balanced. The best way to sanitize your pool is with chlorine. Keeping your pool balanced, means keeping the five basic pool water components (pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, total dissolved solids and stabilizer) within their proper ranges, helps your sanitizer work more effectively. That's why we say to achieve a healthy pool, sanitizing and balancing are equally important.

Total Alkalinity

In simple terms, total alkalinity refers to how much alkaline is in the water. But you can't fully know the importance of total alkalinity without referring to pH, because the two go hand-in-hand. High alkaline water leads to high pH. Low alkaline water leads to low pH. For now, just remember that the average swimming pool should have an alkalinity reading of 100 ppm.

Swimming Pool Water pH Levels

Keeping your pH levels within the proper range is not only important for swimmer comfort, it's also important for keeping your equipment and pool finish in good condition. pH refers to the acidity or baseness of your pool water. All you need to remember is that a proper pH level is around 7.4 to 7.6 on a pH test kit's numeric scale. 0 to 7 reflects a low or acidic pH. 8 to 14 means the pool has a base pH level. Low pH readings mean your chlorine will dissipate a lot quicker. High pH levels make chlorine inactive. And that means the money you're spending on chlorine is a waste.

Calcium Hardness

Anyone who's ever washed their hair in hard water knows that hard water doesn't do much for getting up a good lather. But in your pool, just the right amount of calcium is essential. Too little and your plaster can erode. Too much and your water could become cloudy, scale could form and stains might start. 200 to 400 ppm is the general range for calcium hardness, while 300 ppm is ideal for the average pool.


Stabilizer is to chlorine like your home's insulation is to keeping in hot or cold air – it helps retain your chlorine longer just as insulation helps retain heat or air conditioning. Stabilizer is even added to some chlorine compounds to protect them from the breakdown effects of sunlight. When your stabilizer level is low, you'll use a lot more chlorine. When it's high, you may need to dilute your pool water to bring it back into the 40 to 100 ppm ideal range.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

Like calcium, there are many other dissolved elements in pool water. Unless it's distilled, all water contains dissolved minerals. As pool water evaporates, minerals remain behind and become concentrated. The more concentrated these minerals become, the harder it is for chemical additives to work and stains can form. If you have 3000 ppm or more of total dissolved solids or TDS, you may need to drain some water and add fresh water.

View the full size Understanding Water Balance portion of our "Pool Care Tips" manual.

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