Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™

Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa, "Creating Water as Art."™
Pools as an art form - the way it should be!

Monday, June 18, 2012

So you want a Chlorine Free Pool? What you don't know may harm you!

 So you want a chlorine free pool?
You have heard so many bad things about chlorine and the environment...
how chlorine burns the eyes, causes itching skin and respiratory ailments...

You don't know, what you don't know
 The "negative effects" of chlorine are spread by Suzy's mom down the street, the lady at the beauty parlor and even your pediatrician...  all people who mean well, but do not understand the science of swimming pool water chemistry.

Over the years, this misinformation has compounded itself - to the point where businessmen have seized upon this "the sky is falling"mentality and introduced "chlorine free pools. 

Skin rashes, respiratory ailments & burning eyes

The facts are plain & simple: it is not the chlorine that causes bather discomfort. It is almost always from other water chemistry issues, and almost always due to the lack of proper chemical maintenance, testing, and the incorrect dosing of chemicals.

Among the most common complaints:
itchy skin (too little chlorine)
burning eyes (bad pH or too little chlorine - ammonia compounds)
green hair (excess copper)

All of these are attributed to other factors... but ignorant people immediately point their finger at the chlorine - because they "smell" what to them must be chlorine (but are actually chloramines).

People sense the strong "chlorine" smell around a commercial or indoor pool, or worse yet, a health club spa - and immediately assume that there is too much chlorine in the pool!

What you are really smelling is actually resulting from the LACK OF CHLORINE! You are smelling the chloramines off gassing.  Chloramines are ammonia compounds that are formed when chlorine combines with bather waste.  When there is a sufficient quantity of chlorine in the water chloramines cannot form.  When the bather load exceeds the quantity or feed rate of the chlorine, chloramines begin to form.

This is why you "smell chlorine" on your skin after swimming - but in reality, you are actually smelling your perspiration that has combined with the pool's chlorine that formed chloramines (ammonia compounds) on your skin!  A simple shower with soap & water will remove them.

As "Chlorine Free" as you'll ever get
The only real "new"technology is ozone (though it has been around for 30+ years). Done properly with sufficient contact time before re-entering the pool or spa - it has awesome effects on the water quality. Ozone works synergistically with the chlorine, taking over the business of oxidizing bather waste. Since ozone is a thousands times better oxidizer than halogens (such as chlorine, bromine, hydrogen peroxide), it takes over those responsibilities, allowing the halogens to work as sanitizers. The ozone will also kill biological pathogens & viruses, which ionizers will not.

I have personally been toying with ozone for over 18 years. I have 2 separate systems on my personal pool, plumbed into the filtration & vanishing edge systems. I have tweaked my own contact chambers & ozone destruct units to provide additional contact time & to be more effective.

Chlorine is Safe
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH USING LIQUID CHLORINE. To be politically correct & environmentally sensitive, we call it "bleach." Chlorine has been used as a pool sanitizer for over 100+ years. It is used to treat drinking water in almost every city in the world. It is used in almost every commercial swimming pool in the world to maintain clear, safe, and sanitary water.

People who do not understand how chlorine reacts with contaminants, heavy metals, and other chemicals, continue to spread myths about what chlorine does & does not do.
For example:
Chlorine does not turn hair green, but copper does (blue staining from copper + yellow (blonde) hair = green).
You cannot smell it around a pool, even at 3-5X the normal dosages, but you can smell chloramines (which are the result of too little chlorine).
At the correct levels (1-3 ppm) it does not burn the eyes, but incorrect pH or chloramines will!
When water containing chlorine must be dumped into a storm drain or sanitary sewer, the chlorine can be neutralized - heavy metals from ionizers cannot!

People who claim that they are "allergic" to chlorine, in almost every case are really experiencing reactions to the chloramines - which can cause itching & rashes.

Someone experiencing "allergic reactions to chlorine" (actually the ammonia compounds/chloramines), could additionally be experiencing an allergic reaction(s) to any of the countless biological contaminants that accumulate in a pool (or worse yet, a spa) when the chlorine levels drop too low:
  • Molluscipox virus.
  • Mycobacterium spp.
  • Verrucas.
  • Staphylococius aureus.
  • Cryptosporidium.
  • Leptospira interrogans.
  • Trichophyton spp.
  • E. Coli
  • Pseudonomas
  • Human pathogens: blood, saliva, feces, urine, perspiration, mucus
  • Epidmerophyton.
  • Acanthamoeba spp.
  • Human papilloma virus.
  • Legionella pneumophila
In asthmatics the inhalation of chloramines can aggravate asthmatic symptoms. But because chlormaines "smell like chlorine," patients report that the chlorine caused the asthmatic attack.  Their doctor, not knowing about chloramines, reinforces the myth, and the MYTH GROWS.

Additionally, alternative treatment manufacturer's and environmentalists point to the fact that chlorine is a carcinogen. Yes it is, but if the studies are investigated, one will note that the prolonged exposure, dosage quantities, and chemical concentrations of chlorine are way beyond what any normal human being will ever ingest over many lifetimes.

Again, it is the "chicken little syndrome" - "the sky is falling, the sky is falling..." Did you know that ingesting too much water, too quickly, can kill you??? Does that mean that we should outlaw the drinking of water??? Of course not, but in moderation, the exposure is more than acceptable.

The Secret is Even & Consistent Micro-Dosing
Depending on the scope of the project & chlorine needs, we use barrels to store liquid bleach that is delivered. Where large quantities are needed, say for example on Olympic sized swimming pools, we'll install an on-site electrolytic production. The electrolytic production also creates sodium hydroxide, which is collected for use in buffering the pH.

On site production doesn't always generate enough sodium hydroxide, so pH buffering is augmented with either C02 gas (it forms carbonic acid when injected to the pool water) or a 4:1 muriatic acid solution (4 parts water:1 part acid). At this ratio, the "boiling point" (vapor point) of the acid is reduced, so that caustic fumes are not generated. As an added precaution, the chlorine & acid barrel bung openings are kept sealed & barrels are vented to the outdoors with a 1/4" vent tube.

For water chemistry management and to provide an automatic & instantaneous responses to the demands for additional (or fewer) chemicals (due to 30 kids in the pool, a 100ºF+ heat spell, or a cool weather front), my preference is an automatic ORP/pH controller (CAT Controllers & Acutrol are my 2 brands of preference). It monitors the water, responding to the additional demands placed upon the pool by the environment or bathers, by controlling 2 fixed rate peristaltic pumps (Stenner is my brand of preference)- delivering chlorine & the 4:1 acid solution. 

A water chemistry monitoring system coupled with slightly over-sized ozone system, will provide you with as close to a chemical free pool as is humanly possible.

Paolo Benedetti - Aquatic Artist
"Creating water as art."™
Aquatic Technology Pool and Spa