Swimming pool chemicals create gas cloud, sending dozens to hospitals

Dozens of people, including children as young as 6, were exposed to a dangerous mixture of pool chemicals Thursday in Northern California, officials said. 

At least 35 people were exposed to the combination of pool chemicals muriatic acid and chlorine, creating a gas cloud at the neighborhood Shadow Brook Swim Club in Northern California’s Almaden Valley, the San Jose Fire Department told the East Bay Times.

The hazmat situation caused people to report nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing and other symptoms, Bill Murphy, Santa Clara County’s fire captain, told KTVU Fox 2. 

Firefighters came in 10 ambulances, decontaminated the victims and transported them to nine different local hospitals, fire officials said.

“We are taking this very seriously,” San Jose Fire Capt. Mitch Matlow said at the scene, according to the East Bay Times. “That combination of chemicals can release a gas cloud that can cause what’s called secondary drowning. The lungs start swelling up with its own fluid, the fluid blocks the airwaves and you drown in your own fluids.”

Lindsay Tarasco, 17, told the newspaper she was teaching a group of 7- and 8-year-olds when she noticed a few mothers urging everyone out of the pool.

“I smelled something, so I took a deep breath in. Bad mistake,” she said. “I realized there was definitely something poisonous in the air.”

Tarasco got her swim students out of the pool, and as they ran away from the smell, she described the scene as “a lot of chaos,” according to the newspaper.

“The kids were definitely freaked out,” Tarasco said. “A couple of them were sick, everyone was coughing, couldn’t breathe.”

Matlow said exposure to a high level mixture of muriatic acid and chlorine could potentially lead to serious health consequences.

“Long term, those patients could end up on ventilators and be attached to a breathing machine for quite some time until their lungs heal enough to breathe on their own,” he said.

There were an estimated 4,876 visits to emergency departments in 2012 that occurred after “pool chemical-associated health events,” the East Bay Times reported, citing a 2017 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.

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