Regions Hospital, St. Paul, MN, is the first hospital in Minnesota to use Sphagnum moss to treat the water in its therapy pool. The moss treatment system is part of HealthPartners Health Goals 2014.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)
It’s all about hydrogen ions and water. Hydrogen, you remember, the most abundant molecule on earth, is in the upper right-hand corner of the periodic table of elements. It is just one proton and one electron. Two hydrogen molecules combine with one oxygen molecule to form water. The hydrogen ion (H+) in water has a positive charge; the mirror image chemical is the hydroxyl ion (OH-) that has a negative charge. These two ions are like a teeter-totter. When one is up, the other is down. An acid has a high concentration of hydrogen ions and a low concentration of hydroxyl ions. A base is just the opposite. Put an acid and a base together carefully because they react with vigor to make water and release a lot of energy.
To understand pH, buffers, total alkalinity, and chlorine in any body of water like a pool, spa, pond or drinking water, you have to understand hydrogen ions. [Read more…]
Walk into a building with a pool and you can instantly tell it’s there by the smell. No matter how big the building, small the pool, or robust the heating and ventilation system, that characteristic “chlorine” smell is there. If you are like me, a few minutes of exposure to the smell will bring tightness to my chest, itching to my eyes, and after about 20 minutes a light headed feeling. Go outside and it all goes away in about an hour. Swim and it can take days to return to normal. Competitively swim or swim daily and you probably get so used to the air you become acclimated to the irritation of disinfection byproducts (DBP). In the past few years, a lot of research has defined what causes this smell, what effect it has on swimmers, and what can change the creation of DBP’s so the pool becomes a “you don’t know there is a pool until you see it” experience. [Read more…]
Anyone who owns, cares for, or cares about pools, spas or any kind of recreational water, knows that water filtration is an integral part of every water system. Using sand for filtration is commonly used on recreational and residential pools and large spas. Here are some of my observations, thoughts and concerns about sand filtration.
Sand is cheap, plentiful, and when it is a particle, it works well as a filter medium.
Sand filters are usually filled, sealed and the sand is forgotten. The commonly held belief is that back washing the sand periodically, “fluffs it up” and returns the sand to a particle state where it can again work its magic as a particulate filter. Some sand filters have never been opened for 5-10 years to inspect the sand.
Back-washing the sand filter is costly. Water lost during back washing needs to be replaced, heated and treated. Ideally, the pool operators backwash often enough to keep the sand working as a filter, but do not needlessly back wash so water, heat, chemicals and time aren’t wasted.
Inspecting and analyzing the sand from pool sand filters in both residential and commercial pools has been enlightening, to say the least. At the bottom and sides of many filters we found sandstone. Actual sand in the process of forming sandstone. It wasn’t the gravel that is often put down underneath the sand, but sandstone. The sand in those filters was anywhere from 2-10 years old. The sand that wasn’t rock was sticky and foul. When we tested it in our laboratory, we found that it was full of organic contamination.
We know that in an aqueous environment that contains bacteria, organic contamination forms on every surface. To be effective, filters have enormous surface area whether they are made from sand, charcoal, paper, glass or diatomaceous earth. The particles become covered with organic contamination over time. Organic contamination is very sticky so the particles stick together. As time and pressure continue to pack the organic contamination-coated particles together they eventually become rock. So what happens during backwashing? The water will take the path of least resistance. We observed in these filters that there were channels in the sand. We think that the water follows channels through the sand that have become established over time.
We know that backwashing will not remove organic contamination. In fact there are very few things that will remove organic contamination. Strong acid or base solutions work but they destroy the filter, pumps, valves etc. We have demonstrated that a flush used in spas removes 90% of laboratory created organic contamination in one hour, and that many other solutions that claim to remove organic contamination don’t.
Getting Better Results
We also have observed that sand in filters where the water is treated with PoolNaturally® Plus (the commercial version of the residential product PoolNaturally®) appears to remain as particles. We think this is why we needed to backwash filters with PoolNaturally Plus much less often than those with conventional water treatment.
By understanding the relationship between organic contamination, filters and water we are aiming to create organic contamination free aquatic systems that require less chemicals, maintenance, and unwanted side effects.
During our test this last summer at the St. Paul, MN outdoor aquatic park we surveyed the swimmers twice a week. One of the most striking findings was that swimmers with asthma did not need to use their inhalers when swimming in the pools that were conditioned with PoolNaturally® Plus. We then treated the indoor aquatic park in St. Paul and had similar results.
Able to Swim AgainWatch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)
In fact one lady wrote to me about her inability to swim indoors due to her asthma. She was a competitive swimmer in her younger years and had to stop swimming because of severe breathing problems from asthma caused by the air in the pool. She heard about the sphagnum moss treated pools and how people could swim without using their inhalers so she tried swimming again. She reported that she could do a full workout without breathing problems and thanked me for “giving her back her favorite sport”.
With a little research the relationship between recreational and home water, chlorine and asthma became clear.
The Chemical Reactions
Here is what happens when we use chlorine to sanitize water in a pool or in our municipal water supply. As it turns out chlorine is not the problem. A byproduct of chlorine and biological molecules that contain nitrogen is the formation chloramines. These chloramines come in many different forms such as mono, di, and trichloramines. One of these compounds, a molecule called trinitrochlorine, has been implicated in causing airway irritation.
Trinitrochlorine is a volatile molecule that is extremely irritating to tissues such as your eyes, skin and airways. Because the molecule is volatile, it rises to the surface of water and is easily inhaled. In fact, in a pool, the levels of trichloronitrate are highest in the air right on top of the water. So every time a swimmer takes a breath, they inhale an irritant that causes airway constriction called reactive airway disease. The smell we all associate with a chlorine pool is actually the smell of the multiple species of chloamines, not chlorine. The problem is that chlorine is so reactive, it immediately finds and combines with nitrogen containing compounds to create chloramines.
Correlation between Pools and Asthma
A recent study reported in the pediatric literature, showed that children who are repeatedly exposed to swimming pools have a significantly higher incidence of reactive airway disease or asthma, than those who aren’t exposed to pools.
In our research laboratory, we are currently studying why the pools treated with PoolNaturally® Plus don’t cause this reactive airway response, skin irritation, or burning eyes and don’t smell. We know that for chlorine to become trichloronitrate you need chlorine, nitrogen containing biological molecules and a low pH. It could be that the amount of organic contamination in the pool correlates with the amount of trichloronitrate because organic contamination contains and produces huge amounts of nitrogen containing molecules and it creates a local microenvironment that has a very low pH. It could therefore be the “engine” that drives the formation of these toxic molecules. In the laboratory we know that the moss in PoolNaturally® Plus inhibits the formation of organic contamination and if our hypothesis is correct it could greatly reduce the formation of chlorine to trichloronitrate by removing the primary nitrogen source, the organic contamination.