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 Chlorine Gas Facts

NAGC

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GAS CHLORINATORS

 

PURE CHLORINE:  
                DISPELLING THE MYTHS

         Gas chlorine is chlorine in its purest form and is the base element used in the production of all other swimming pool chlorine compounds, including tablets, powders, and liquids.  It is used extensively in water treatment throughout the world due to its efficiency both as a sanitizing agent and as an oxidizer.  Since gas chlorine does not contain any of the salts or additives found in all other chlorinating compounds, it does not promote the rapid buildup of these elements in the pool water.  Although most large public and semi-public pools use gas chlorine via automatic feed systems, the use of gas chlorine in residential swimming pool water treatment is limited to a relatively small number of qualified pool service firms across the nation who are licensed registered, and specially trained in it handling and use.  Gas chlorine is an EPA registered product, and its use has the approval of the National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI).  Gas chlorine has been used safely and reliably in residential pool water treatment for almost 40 years.

 

             No other chlorinating compound can compare to gas chlorine.  It is the most efficient means of treating pool water.  It significantly reduces the hardening of water due to its purity.  But, as its use is limited to a handful of extremely specialized pool firms, gas chlorine has the distinction of being perhaps the least understood chemical in the swimming pool industry.  This lack of understanding has allowed a proliferation of inaccurate and misleading statements to be disseminated regarding gas chlorine from within the swimming pool industry itself.  The National Association of Gas Chlorinators (NAGC) offers this treatise in an effort to address these statements and dispel the myths associated with the process of gas chlorination.

 

 
THE FOLLOWING ARE TYPICAL AREAS OF MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT GAS CHLORINE:

 

 
Myth # 1:  Gas chlorination is illegal.

 

Gas chlorination is completely legal; operations that handle gas chlorine are required to be EPA registered and licensed by various state and local agencies.  The actual degree of licensing and certification of gas chlorination companies far exceeds that required for any other type of swimming pool service firm.


Myth #2:  Gas chlorination damages pool and equipment.

 

Absolutely not!  Gas chlorine in contrast to over-the-counter chemicals used in pool water treatment, may only be handled by trained and knowledgeable operators.  They make it their business to use a balanced approach and professional knowledge of their product to protect your pool and equipment.  The misuse or improper application of any pool chemical can cause problems for the pool owner; normal “wear and tear” on the pool surface and equipment may be accelerated and both metals and plaster may be affected.  Please refer to the statements from industry professionals at the end of this bulletin in reference to the compatibility of pure chlorine with pool plaster/products.  They qualify their statements with the note that the professional will maintain the water chemistry within accepted parameters.  As with any chemical, care should be taken to insure that the pool is balanced properly with regard to pH, alkalinity, and hardness.  As the residential use of gas chlorine is limited to specially licensed service firms and should not be obtainable by unlicensed operators, the potential for damage due to improper handling of gas chlorine is far less than that of all other chlorinating compounds – which are available indiscriminately for over-the-counter purchase with no requirements for training or safety.  When making any chemical treatment or service decision for your pool, be sure your service company is knowledgeable about the chemicals they use, are qualified to handle them, and meets all local licensing requirements.

 
Myth #3:  Since gas chlorine is acidic, it has to be bad.

 

Every chlorinating compound added to disinfect pool water has some effect upon water pH and alkalinity.  Since water (especially swimming pool water) is generally alkaline in nature, it is a benefit to use a chlorine product that is acidic, and thus offsets this alkalinity; rather than one which increases it, thereby requiring the addition of liquid acid to avoid scaling.  Gas chlorine (the pure form of chlorine) when added to water, interacts with the acid/base balance and can lower pH, depending upon other factors, particularly alkalinity and hardness.  This chemical reaction is the same as when muriatic acid or trichlor tablets are used, except for the fact that the change in pH is effected by a diffuse chemical reaction rather than the addition of concentrated chemicals.  The effervescence of the gas-created acid spread gently and broadly throughout a properly buffered pool as opposed to the strong localized reaction one creates by adding concentrated hydrochloric acid in the form of liquid (muriatic) pool acid.  Again, as with any sanitizer system, proper understanding and maintenance of pH and alkalinity is the key to a well-balanced pool.  Gas chlorinators use buffering agents (like soda ash and baking soda) to balance your pool water and maintain proper equilibrium.  This integrated “balance” approach utilized by professional gas applicators uses all pool chemistry factors (such as alkalinity, buffers, and hardness) and pure chemicals (rather than compounds which contain unwanted additives) to create a total balanced effect that never results in overly high or low pH conditions.

 
Myth #4:  Gas chlorine is too dangerous.

 

Gas chlorine, like virtually all chlorinating compounds, is classified as hazardous material.  The widespread use of gas chlorine in industry and water treatment world-wide makes it one of the most well known chemicals in use today.  It also enjoys the distinction of having one of the finest safety records of any chemical.  This is primarily the result of stringent handling and use guidelines established by the Chlorine Institute in Washington, D.C.  Although the swimming pool industry only accounts for less than 5% of all chlorine used, these guidelines from the Chlorine Institute do cover swimming pool treatment applications.  Any chemical that is either mishandled or improperly used is dangerous.  However, since residentially applied gas chlorine is available only to specially trained firms who have to comply with strict safety standards; and since these firms use relatively small amounts of the product, gas chlorine does not represent a significant hazard.

 
Myth#5:  Gas chlorine is used as a deadly war gas.

 

No.  Gas chlorine was briefly tried as a war weapon during World War I but was quickly replaced as such because it was ineffective for the use.  It dissipated too fast, was neither toxic nor persistent enough to do the desired damage to troops, and its effects were too easily remedied.  It was therefore quickly replaced by more toxic and effective compounds.  In fact, pure pas chlorine was later used in training because troops exposed to it suffered no lasting damage…they recovered quickly and could learn from the experience of relatively benign gas exposure without suffering lasting damage from it.

 

Myth #6:  Gas chlorinators maintain chlorine levels that are too high.

Please bear with us because this one gets a little more technical.  Total chlorine is a combination of free chlorine and combined chlorine.  In pool applications, combined chlorine, or chloramines, are an irritant (to swimmers) and a retardant (for the chlorine’s effectiveness) and is therefore an unwanted form.  Free chlorine (which for pool purposes includes stabilized or cyanurate chlorine) is the desired sanitizer, and as dictated by pH is further subdivided into free active (HOCII) and free passive (OCI) chlorine.  Free active chlorine is the effective sanitizing agent in the disinfection process and the passive form is a reserve for when the active form gets used.  Most gas chlorination services maintain pH levels between 7.8 and 8.2.  At this level, 20 to 30% of the total chlorine is both free and active.  When chlorine is added to the pool on the service day, the initial addition creates a super chlorination, or shock effect in the pool.  This is a beneficial way of removing any combined chlorine or impurities in the water.  Any chlorine used during this process is said to have satisfied the “?chlorine demand” of the water.  Any remaining chlorine then becomes free chlorine waiting to be used and is referred to as the chlorine residual.  This residual can be thought of as a “bank” of available chlorine in the form of free active and passive chlorine.  The active is ready to kill bacteria and algae, and the passive replenishes the active.  The amount of chlorine added is carefully calculated to insure that an adequate residual remains for the protection until the next service day.  At no time is there an unsafe condition of too little sanitizer, and other than a short (20-30 minute) period while blending, at no time is that water unsuitable for enjoyable swimming.

The levels of chlorine maintained in this process have been carefully studied, calculated, and documented to achieve the maximum benefit for the pool and swimmers.  The fact that chlorine levels fluctuate is true and this “shock & residual cycle” is maintained intentionally as a benefit.  Studies document that a constant low-level dosages of chlorine without regular super chlorination is a recipe for chloramines and ineffective sanitization.  The NSPI recommends super chlorination at least every other week and weekly when the water is warm.  In general, a gas chlorinator super chlorinates weekly in the summer.  Periodic super chlorination is a routine that all pool professionals and most pool owners recognize as a necessary practice, particularly in summer months.  Super chlorination coupled with adequate chlorine residuals, in conjunction with proper pH and alkalinity balance, represents better water disinfection, not problems.

 So what are the advantages of gas chlorination?

 

Chlorine has actually been one of the most beneficial chemicals used in the world, not only through its use in water purification, but also through its use in the production of necessary medicines and disinfectants.  A world without chlorine would be a world with typhus, dysentery, and cholera.  Our world with chlorine is a much nicer, more sanitary place.  Gas chlorine is the most efficient method of treating water, and it is the only pool sanitizer that does not add salts, additives, or inert ingredients to water.  Harmful bacteria and fungi are effectively destroyed, along with algae infestations.  The use of gas chlorination by a qualified service company completely negates the handling and storage of dangerous pool chemicals in or around the home.

 How do I select a gas chlorine company?

 

As with the selection of any service for your home, you should check references before engaging a service company.  Since residential gas chlorine companies are required to have establishment and registration numbers from the EPA, that is a good place to start.  Things to check include the company’s length of time in business, experience knowledge of their product, and what their service specifically does or does not include.  Please feel free to contact the National Association of Gas Chlorinators, 30575 Trabuco Canyon Rd., Suite 105, Trabuco Canyon, CA   92678 for any additional information you desire relative to the benefits of using pure gas chlorine in your pool.

 Notes from industry experts:

 

 “If properly applied or administered in accordance with the Chlorine Institute and all other applicable codes and regulatory requirements, gas chlorine is a viable, effective pool sanitizer/oxidizer and has no greater potential for pool damage than any other chlorine sanitizer”.  The National Plasters Council.

 

 “We have no reason to believe that gas chlorine has any more of an adverse effect on solar blankets than any other sanitizer, assuming all other factors, i.e., pH, total alkalinity, etc., are maintained at generally prescribed levels”.  Cantar Corporation, a manufacturer of “blue bubble” solar blankets.

 

 “We have many Polaris’ working in pools with all commonly used chemicals, including those serviced by chlorine gas without problems being caused to the Polaris”.  Polaris Pool Systems.

 

 “When administered properly, there is no discernible difference between gas chlorine and other forms of chlorination on the Kreepy Krauly unit”.  Kreepy Krauly West, Inc.

 

 

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