Summer will be here before we know it, and when the sun comes out, the first thing kids love to do is jump into the pool. Whether they’re swimming at your local public pool, a hotel or resort pool, or even a family friend or neighbor’s private pool, you shouldn’t have to think twice about whether or not the water is safe for your children to swim in. In fact, public pool owners are required to treat their water with disinfecting chemicals in order to help keep the water as clean as possible for every swimmer.

But what happens when they take that responsibility too far? Or if they don’t execute it correctly? Unfortunately, it means your child could suffer from chemical burns—the last thing you might expect when they’re having fun playing in the water.

Q: How do swimming pool chemical burns happen?

A: Most swimming pools are disinfected with chlorine on a regular basis in order to help make sure safe water conditions are maintained. Chlorine is considered a harsh chemical, which makes it very effective in killing unwanted bacteria and organic matter, so many public pool facilities will put it in their pools in liquid, tablet, or powder form. The problem is, if their ratios aren’t accurate or they don’t treat the water at the appropriate times in relation to when people will be swimming in it, the amount of chlorine can be too harsh and actually burn human skin. That’s why these facilities are meant to follow strict instructions when it comes to the amount of chlorine used, when it’s administered, and when people are allowed to swim in their pool again after treatment.

Q: What kinds of chemical burns can occur from contact with chlorine?

A: Adding too much chlorine to water and/or not keeping patrons out of a pool for the required amount of time after a pool chemical treatment can cause chemical burns in two ways:

  • Direct contact: Because chlorine is highly corrosive if it makes direct, undiluted contact with a person’s skin, it can significantly damage their tissues. And the more prolonged that contact is, the more severe the chemical burn can become.
  • Chlorine gas inhalation: One byproduct of chlorine use, especially if a liquid form is used, is noxious gas. When chlorine is poured into the pool bump, that gas is released and will dissipate eventually. But if the pool is indoors and there’s poor ventilation, the gas can linger and cause burns on the skin it comes into contact with. Inhaling this gas can also damage a person’s mouth, throat, and lungs.

Q: What is a “pool shock” and why is it especially dangerous?

A: “Shocking” a pool refers to the process of adding a larger dose of chlorine to the pool water in order to raise the overall “free chlorine” level in the pool. It’s meant to be a quick cleaning treatment if the pool’s overall chlorine levels are found to be too low or if some kind of contamination is discovered that needs to be treated as quickly as possible, such as algae buildup or some kind of biological human material. But pool shock can be very dangerous if it’s not timed correctly, as the higher level of chlorine has the potential to cause even more severe burns to swimmers because it can be so much more concentrated. We’ve tried a case in which hotel pool maintenance staff carelessly shocked a pool while our clients were swimming in it, leading to severe and some permanent physical damage for several family members.

Q: What are the signs that my child was hurt by a pool chemical exposure?

A: High levels of chlorine can lead to various symptoms and complications, ranging from skin irritation to respiratory issues and even long-term damage if left untreated. In this guide, we’ll explore the signs and symptoms of chlorine exposure, highlighting the importance of prompt recognition and appropriate action.

Here are some signs to look for if your child or family were exposed to pool chemicals:

Chlorine Rash: Skin condition resulting from direct contact with high levels of chlorine. Symptoms include rawness, swelling, and itchy redness.

Respiratory Distress: Coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing may indicate respiratory infection. Severe cases may lead to hives and other allergic reactions.

Eye Irritation: Chlorine exposure can result in burning and irritation of the eyes.

Pool shock or high chlorine exposure can cause immediate and severe burns. Ingestion or inhalation can lead to damage in the mouth, throat, or lungs. If left untreated, symptoms may lead to lasting damage, such as burn scars, lung issues, and even blindness.

It’s crucial to seek prompt medical attention if any of these symptoms occur after chlorine exposure, as timely treatment can prevent further complications and ensure proper care for affected individuals.

Q: Who is liable for pool chemical burns?

A: Typically, the owner or manager of the pool itself can be held liable for chemical burns caused by swimming in their pool. That could be the parent owner of the facility itself (such as the community facility owner or the hotel/resort owner), or it could be the direct manager of the pool and/or their staff who is directly responsible for maintaining cleanliness and safety for the pool and its patrons. Proving liability means identifying who it was that owed your children a duty of care, showing how that duty was breached and how that breach caused your injuries, and then identifying the damages that resulted from that breach and those injuries.

Q: What should I do if my child was chemically burned at a public pool?

A: First and foremost, get your child the immediate medical attention they need to address their burns. Chemical burns are different from heat burns, which if mild enough, can usually be treated at home. But chemical burns can have ongoing impact if the chemical is not properly washed off or otherwise removed from the skin, eyes, or mouth, so it may be in your child’s best interest to take them to the emergency room even if their chlorine rash doesn’t seem severe at the moment.

Once their injuries have been treated, try documenting them as best you can. Take photos of the injuries suffered as well as of the pool where you believe the burn was suffered. Then, your best chance of recovering full compensation for the harm caused by the owners of the public pool is to contact a premises liability or personal injury attorney. They will be able to help you further investigate exactly what caused the burns, identify who to hold responsible, and build your case for your child.

Seeking Justice for Pool Chemical Injuries? Turn to Finney Injury Law

Experience a pool chemical injury? You’re not alone. At Finney Injury Law, we understand the complexities and challenges that come with such incidents. Our dedicated team is here to offer you the support and legal guidance you deserve. Don’t wait – let us help you navigate through your legal options and seek the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 314-293-4222 for a consultation.