Toxic Public Pool Sends Kids to Hospital. Parents Want Answers

Toxic Public Pool Sends Kids to Hospital. Parents Want Answers

In Thursday’s 90 degree heat-wave, Indianapolis’ Garfield Park Pool seemed like the best place for locals to cool down. Then, in a moment, it became the worst.

“Mayhem,” is how the Indianapolis Star’s reporters described the scene as hoards of young swimmers began vomiting. Lifeguards rushed to evacuate the pool, as the reported odor of sharp chemicals flooded the area.

One mom on the scene described “an explosion of acid” rising from a once serene pool, though it’s unclear what officially happened around 2 p.m. yesterday to sicken as many as 80 people, according to the Star’s estimate.

“We haven’t reached a final determination on the cause of yesterday’s incident,” John T. Althardt, spokesman for the Marion County Health Department, told Yahoo! Shine Friday. The pool employee on the scene that day might have more answers, but is still recovering in the hospital along with six other patients being treated for respiratory distress.

For now, it’s believed a toxic mixture of chlorine gas caused swimmers, most of them children, to suffer bouts of vomiting along with eye and lung irritation. Lt. Derrick Sayles of the Indianapolis Fire Department points to ACID Magic, a pool sanitizing solution that if imbalanced can produce a potentially dangerous level of toxicity.

Children were bussed en masse to four different hospitals. One child who refused medical help, later developed swollen eyes and a chest irritation that was severe enough to send him to the E.R. None of the reactions have been reported to be life-threatening, but that’s little comfort for shocked parents.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Heather Lightle, the mom of one sickened child told the Star. “I don’t see any reason why it happened. I don’t understand how it happened.”

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She’s not alone. Parents are well-versed in the potential for drowning accidents in pools, but mysterious and instantaneous sickness isn’t something most are prepared for. Unfortunately, they should be.

The most recent CDC report on public pools found one in eight in violation of safety codes, and last month the Water Quality and Health Council warned of dangerous, illness-causing bacteria lurking in poorly balanced pools.

In an interview with Shine in May, public health expert Dr. Chris Wiant advised parents to buy test strips to monitor the PH and chlorine levels of a pool before letting their kids dive in for a swim.

But at Indianapolis’ popular public pool, the problem is now beyond test strips. With an ongoing investigation and a half dozen patients recovering in a hospital as of Friday, the pool remains closed. For those still shaking off Thursday’s harrowing scene, there’s likely no rush to return.

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