Allergic Responses To Saltwater Pool System Using Muriatic Acid

by Glenda Roberts
(Elmsdale PEI Canada)

I am told muriatic acid was used in our local pool even before they changed to a saltwater pool a year ago. However, I had no health problems when it was used in the chlorine pool.

Now my nose runs like a tap and have very red eyes, conjunctivitis which gets worse every time I use the pool. Can the levels of muriatic acid be changed in this new system with saltwater, and how do I get the changes made?

Thanks for the question Glenda

Without knowing the chemical readings of the pool and how much muriatic acid is being used, it would be difficult for me to say with any degree of certainty whether the acid is a contributing factor to your health issues.

It could be the acid, although in taking care of residential and commercial pools since 1999, I've never encountered an allergic reaction to acid as described by you.

It could be a variety of issues:

- Lack of ventilation/exhaust/fresh air which can cause the combined chlorine/chloramines to rise. I will assume it's an indoor pool.

- Too much or too little chlorine being produced. A salt pool is not a chlorine free or chemical free pool. The salt cell still produces hydrochloric acid, which is chorine.

- Too high alkalinity or pH fill water. This might be the reason why alot of muriatic acid is being used.

Muriatic acid is used to keep the alkalinity and pH from getting too high. The proper range for alkalinity is 80 - 100, 120 being the top. Salt water pools can get away with the alkalinity between 60 - 80.

The pH can be allowed to rise to 7.6 - 7.8. Most pool operators keep the pH between 7.2 - 7.4. This will cause an increase of acid use because they're trying to jam the pH down and keep it there.

For the YMCA salt pool, I allowed the pH to rise to 7.6 - 7.8. By doing this I cut down the muriatic acid use from 20 - 25 gallons per month to 2 gallons. This is much better for the pool and swimmers, not to mention the budget. A gallon of acid costs between $8 - $10.

Using less muriatic acid is possible, but you need to get the pool operator to understand why. This can be tricky because many of them are very set in their ways, as are most people. By changing what they've been doing sometimes takes the courage to admit what they've been doing has been wrong.

Also, there might be federal and local laws that say what the chemical readings should be. If it's a public pool, it's probably under the jurisdiction of your local and state laws. They come in and periodically test the water.

So the short of it is this...

If you bring your health issues to the pool operator's attention, he will probably be empathetic with your situation. However, I believe the burden of proof needs to be on you. You will need to prove that their pool system is causing your health issues. That the health issues you described are a direct result of the pool operator using too much acid.

If there's a pattern of other people suffering the same issues as you, there could be a change in the chemical use, otherwise, it may stay the same.

If you'd like personal assistance or have more questions, you can reach me here:

If you need immediate assistance (within 24 hrs) or for emergency personal assistance, you can make a donation of your choice and I'll answer your questions by phone.

Contact Me


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Hope this helps and have a great Summer.


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