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Thread: Is a Pool Chlorine Level Above 10 PPM Unsafe?

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    Default Is a Pool Chlorine Level Above 10 PPM Unsafe?

    Admin note: this is a copy of the first 4 posts of this thread:
    http://www.poolforum.com/pf2/showthread.php?15974


    Hello everyone. I recently moved to a new house with a pool and I have been reading up this forum and started using BBB method.

    The pool, in-ground 25k gallon, water is pretty clear now, but I still get algae on the wall even though I keep chlorine level at above 5ppm all the time.

    I recently got the testing kid everyone is recommending and found that CYA is somewhere between 240-300. I had to dilute the water twice. and ph level is 7.5.

    Is having CYA@240 the cause of my algae problem? How much water should I replace in order to bring it down to the acceptable level? say 50?
    Last edited by Orca; 08-19-2013 at 05:20 PM. Reason: clarify title

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    Yes. With CYA=240 ppm, you'd need a MINIMUM chlorine level of 12. If you leave it there, you'll need to dose to about 20-25 ppm 1x per week, and let it drop to 12 before redosing. With a little practice, you'd be able to work out 1x per week dosing.

    CYA=240 is a perfectly acceptable level to ME, but not to all the moderators here. Current recommendations are about 50 ppm for general use; 80 ppm for SWCGs, and 150 ppm if you are frequently gone and need to set up 1x per week treatment.

    With a 25K gallon pool and CYA=240ppm, you'd need to drain 190/240 x 25K gal, or 19,000 gallons in order to be at 50 ppm when you've refilled. That's what most folks here will tell you do do, and it's what I would have recommended, 2 years ago.

    What I currently would recommend is this:
    1. Switch to a non-stabilized form of chlorine -- bleach, cal hypo or SWCG (If you need help on sources, let me know)
    2. Add borax to the 60 ppm level (24 boxes of 20 Mule Team borax + 7 gallons of muriatic acid)
    3. Let your CYA drop over the next few years.
    4. Add chlorine 1x per week.

    Going that route will give you extremely stable chemistry at very low cost, and you'll only have to dose 1x per week. If you have a sand filter, and use cal hypo -- I'll need to give you special instructions -- you will end up with VERY clear water.

    If you do NOT want to switch to a non-stabilized form of chlorine, I'd recommend draining the pool completely since your stabilizer will start to rise as soon as you start adding chlorine.

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    What's the acceptable level for he chlorine level? Does it depend on CYA level?
    We have two young children. I didn't want to raise the chlorine level too high because of them.

    Will 12ppm or higher be safe for people to swim in?
    25k gal IG pool

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    Quote Originally Posted by han78216 View Post
    Will 12ppm or higher be safe for people to swim in?
    Yes. Not "perfectly safe", because nothing is "perfectly safe" -- but the primary risk to your children in the pool, by a VERY large margin, is overexposure to dihydrogen oxide, rather than overexposure to chlorine.

    We'd been reluctant to say yes, for a number of years, even though many of us have swum in pools at 12 ppm or higher. But, this spring, in researching some claims of "chlorine allergies", I found that dermatologists have for years been recommending "bleach baths" at 50 - 100 ppm chlorine with NO stabilizer for patients, including pediatric patients, with eczema and other skin conditions.

    Here's that data we have at present:

    + Bleach bath use at 50 - 100 ppm, as a dermatological treatment for both adult and pediatric patients. (Please note: these were naked bleach baths. 100 ppm of chlorine, in the absence of stabilizer, will do serious damage to most women's swimsuits!)

    + Pool Chlor of Arizona and other pool service companies have used chlorine gas to treat 10,000's of home pools since the 1960s in a process that involves stabilizer levels around 150 ppm and chlorine levels that are 15 - 20 ppm at the end of each weekly chlorine injection treatment, but fall to 5 - 10 ppm by the end of the weekly treatment interval.

    + Personal observation #1: In the late 1990's I was servicing a pool in the subdivision where US Congressman Zach Wamp was living. One of the pool staff made unauthorized changes to the feed system resulting in kiddie pool chlorine levels that had been falling, but were in excess of 100 ppm when I arrived, and found the problem. The feed system had been turned off, so levels would have been falling. My best estimate, from talking to the head guard and trying to determine what had happened, was that the changes had been made 3 days before, and corrected 24 hours later. The kiddie pool had been in HEAVY use during this entire period.

    What was done was done, so I drained most of the pool into the main pool, and then refilled it, lowering chlorine and stabilizer levels to more typical values. I asked the head guard specifically, but she had had ZERO complaints, even though many infants had used the pool. We'd both seen how simply hearing about a problem would generate complaints ( I did this as an experiment on one pool, years ago, announcing a fictitious problem) and so we said nothing. But I asked to let me know immediately of any complaints that did arise. There were none.

    + Personal observation #2: Around 1998, the Chattanooga Warner Park 50m pool was being used by several USS teams for long course training. I knew a number of the elite swimmers, since many of them worked as guards I serviced, and because my son was a fairly elite younger swimmer at that time. During a one month interval, the pool had some 'control' issues, resulting in OTO 'orange' chlorine levels (20 - 50 ppm) (I wasn't servicing the pool so I couldn't check too closely). Stabilizer levels were very low during this period. The results of swimming in this pool with 20<FC<50 ppm and 0<CYA<20 ppm for 2-3 hours per day, 6 days per week were:
    a. loss of all fine body hair
    b. dry skin
    c. destruction of multiple swimsuits (both guys and girls wore Lycra swim suits)
    d. the guys who did NOT wear swim caps had ash-colored hair, with 'goggle-stripes' where the goggle straps protected the hair underneath, which retained it's original color.

    + Personal observation #3: Around 2000, my son was swimming at the McCallie School indoor pool, which experienced similar control problems. I did test this water, but only by dilution, since I did not have the DPD-FAS test at that time. Levels were 15<FC<30 ppm and CYA=0 ppm. This continued for 3 - 4 weeks, until I called the health department. My son, who had moderate to severe asthma, had had NO breathing problem beyond normal, did lose a suit, and did get the stiff, ash-colored hair, but experienced no other ill effects.

    + Analytical observation: Beginning around 2005 (I'll let him comment on this) Chem_Geek took earlier laboratory research and distilled it into an analytical spread sheet that allows calculation of actual HOCl, and -OCl levels, given DPD chlorine levels, pH and CYA levels. Over the past 8 years, both here and at TroubleFreePools, an increasing body of empirical evidence has validated his analytical conclusion that the EFFECTS of chlorine in water are primarily a function of the HOCl and -OCl components. Stabilized chlorine compounds in the water constitute an effective and instantaneously available chlorine RESERVE, but are not themselves active, until the HOCL levels are reduced, allowing the stabilized chlorine compounds to release their 'reserve'.

    + Bureaucratic observation: The US EPA regulates the treatment of potable water by public utilities. Until recently (maybe 12 years ago?) there was NO upper limit on chlorine levels in drinking water. Even today, the upper limit of 4 ppm FC is an ACTION limit. What this means is that the utility is not in trouble, does not have to report a violation to the EPA OR to its customers, but rather simply has to begin to take "ACTION" to lower the chlorine levels. The fact remains, public utilities ROUTINELY provide DRINKING water to some customers that is at or near FC=4ppm, and occasionally provides water at 10 ppm FC . . . and this has not caused any reported problems I am aware of.

    + Literature: I have collected over 8 Gigabytes of peer-reviewed articles on water treatment (and will be publicly indexing them at SwimmingPoolResearch.com, beginning this fall) and have no articles reporting ill health effects on swimmers as a result of chlorine levels that are 10ppm<FC<100ppm. (Those levels do trash hair and swimsuits, as noted above, in the absence of high CYA levels, though I don't have reports on that, either.)

    This is probably more than you wanted -- but it's a question that's going to come up as a result of changes in what I'm suggesting. So I took the opportunity to answer your question somewhat more fully than you might have desired.

    I'm going to put a copy of this thread in the China Shop here:
    http://www.poolforum.com/pf2/showthread.php?16011
    so those that want to continue the technical "Is high chlorine bad for you?" discussion, can do so there, and leave this thread for your personal questions.

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    The active chlorine level that oxidizes swimsuits, skin, hair, corrodes equipment, oxidizes bather waste, creates disinfection by-products, etc. is very low when there is CYA present because its amount is roughly half the FC/CYA ratio. So when we recommend something on the order of an FC that is 10% of the CYA then the active chlorine level is roughly equivalent to around 0.1 ppm FC with no CYA where about half of this is active chlorine. In other words, it's very low and therefore safe.

    The ONLY issue with a high FC level on its own, independent of CYA level, is if you were to drink a lot of pool water since that is when this FC number matters because it represents the capacity/reserve of chlorine. It may not react very quickly because of the CYA, but in any given amount that you swallow, there will be a lot of chlorine, assuming the FC level is very high. So the question is how high is high? The EPA limits drinking water to 4 ppm, but that is for drinking 2 quarts of water every day for a lifetime. In practice, 10 ppm FC won't be a problem and since you aren't drinking the pool water even higher levels are not an issue.

    So unless you expect your kids to be drinking lots of pool water, then it's safe even at 20 ppm FC assuming you have CYA in the water (even 20 ppm CYA or more would be enough to moderate chlorine's strength in this case). Their getting one gulp by accident is not a problem.

    As a point of reference, the LD50 level for hypochlorite is 5800 mg/kg so even a 50 pound child would have to drink 347 gallons of 100 ppm FC pool water to have a 50% chance of dying. The EPA notes the following in this link:

    No adverse effects were noted in persons ingesting water containing 50-90 ppm of chlorine (~1.4 to 2.6 mg Cl/kg/day) for a short periods of time (U.S. EPA 1989). Drinking water concentrations of >90 ppm chlorine caused irritation of membranes of throat and mouth (U.S. EPA 1989). Concentrations of chlorine in the drinking water of greater than 25 ppm make the drinking water unpalatable (U.S. EPA 1989).
    Even the irritations they note of the throat and mouth would not happen when there is CYA in the water since it would significantly slow down chlorine reaction rates.

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    Quote Originally Posted by chem geek View Post
    As a point of reference, the LD50 level for hypochlorite is 5800 mg/kg so even a 50 pound child would have to drink 347 gallons of 100 ppm FC pool water to have a 50% chance of dying.
    Thanks Chem_Geek. And, to put that 347 gallons in perspective, about 20 years ago a lady accidentally drank about 4 oz. of bleach, after setting her juice glass next to a glass which had bleach in it. She then panicked and drank 2 gallons of water to 'dilute' the bleach. The bleach wouldn't have hurt her, but the water killed her, by so diluting the electrolytes in her body.

    So, a child COULD NOT drink that much water -- they would die from over hydration long before the chlorine could have any effect.

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    So it's apparent that chlorine would have to be very high to hurt us, but what about our bathing suits? For example, if my CYA is 80, what would the maximum FC level recommended to avoid destroying my bathing suit?
    22'x40' Grecian Lazy L 20K gal IG vinyl pool; Aqua Rite SWCG; Hayward Pro Grid 6020 DE filter; Hayward Superpump 1hp pump; 12 hrs; I put together individual Taylor kits that combined is the same as the Taylor K-2006; city; PF:6

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    No good answer to that: the most expensive women's suits are almost completely intolerant of chlorine.

    I can tell you that very expensive women's suits are worse than moderate ones, and that suits with elastic (Lycra) are much worse than nylon board shorts or guard suits . . . and that 100% polyester competition suits last forever. But other than that, you have to experiment. However, if you are asking the question, I'd recommend separating your family's suits into "swimming suits" and "showing off suits". If you do that, you'll likely end up with the more chlorine resistant ones in the swimming pile.

    I have some OLD (20 year old) data on grades of Lycra used in competition suits . . . and I can tell you that, at least back then, the most common Lycra elastic was sold on the presumption that women would 'slip and dip', not swim. I think the life expectancy was something like 5 hours at 3 ppm - and that the suit would last the summer. They didn't consider or test stabilized chlorine solutions.

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    Quote Originally Posted by PoolDoc View Post
    No good answer to that: the most expensive women's suits are almost completely intolerant of chlorine.

    I can tell you that very expensive women's suits are worse than moderate ones, and that suits with elastic (Lycra) are much worse than nylon board shorts or guard suits . . . and that 100% polyester competition suits last forever. But other than that, you have to experiment. However, if you are asking the question, I'd recommend separating your family's suits into "swimming suits" and "showing off suits". If you do that, you'll likely end up with the more chlorine resistant ones in the swimming pile.

    I have some OLD (20 year old) data on grades of Lycra used in competition suits . . . and I can tell you that, at least back then, the most common Lycra elastic was sold on the presumption that women would 'slip and dip', not swim. I think the life expectancy was something like 5 hours at 3 ppm - and that the suit would last the summer. They didn't consider or test stabilized chlorine solutions.
    I see. So when shopping for a "pool suit", I should look for nylon or polyester and try to minimize/avoid lycra. We're too cheap to buy expensive suits, so guess we should be fine with the recommended "best guess" levels.
    22'x40' Grecian Lazy L 20K gal IG vinyl pool; Aqua Rite SWCG; Hayward Pro Grid 6020 DE filter; Hayward Superpump 1hp pump; 12 hrs; I put together individual Taylor kits that combined is the same as the Taylor K-2006; city; PF:6

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    Default Re: Hello and CYA @ 240-300

    Just keep in mind that it is the active chlorine (hypochlorous acid) that attacks the swimsuit, not the Free Chlorine (FC) level. So when there is CYA in the water, the rate of attack is orders of magnitude slower. My wife experiences this effect every year when she uses an indoor commercial pool where the elasticity in her swimsuits gets shot after one winter season and her skin is somewhat flaky and hair frizzy until she takes a shower while in our own outdoor residential pool the swimsuits last for years and there aren't the same side effects with skin and hair. The main difference is that the indoor pool has 1-2 ppm FC with no CYA while our outdoor pool has 3-6 ppm FC with 40 ppm CYA which has an active chlorine level similar to around 0.1 ppm FC with no CYA. So the active chlorine level of the indoor pool is 10-20 times higher and oxidizes swimsuits, skin and hair that much faster as well.

    The higher FC level does have an effect after you get out of the pool in that there is more chlorine in reserve so that it can keep reacting for longer as the water evaporates, but this effect can be minimized by rinsing the suits and is generally less important that the active chlorine level.

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