Across the nation, it appears more and more pool service technicians are noticing an interesting phenomenon. Stories of cut-strength cyanuric acid, used as a chlorine stabilizer, have been spreading at trade shows and other industry meetings.
“It’s just not as potent,” said Bill Peck, owner
of Peck Pool Services in San Diego. “[Sometimes] I’m
only getting 50 to 65 percent of the increase I
The reports are still scientifically unproven — no one has
done large-scale testing of raw supplies yet — but if this is
a widespread issue, operators and the techs who service their pools
aren’t getting the product they’re paying for.
All told, potential issues seem to have started about two years
ago, when American companies began outsourcing the manufacture of
CYA to Asian countries — China, in particular — and
many techs and retailers place the blame on that nation’s
“We never had this problem when it was domestic
conditioner,” said John Taylor, president of Tru Blu Pool
Care and Supply in Poway, Calif.
According to Taylor, “every year it shows up a little bit
differently.” “This year, for example, my
conditioner’s level will spike in two weeks. Go four weeks,
and it’s down to zero again,” he added.
For some service professionals, the only option is to run through
every brand of conditioner available — and that’s just
what Bob Fowler did. The owner of Fowler’s Pool Service in
Lemon Grove, Calif., monitors the water chemistry of each pool he
treats with CYA, and compares brands himself.
His team has tested everything from the cheapest bulk powder to the
higher-end names. “We’re starting to see one that seems
to be doing the job, so we’re doing more experiments with
that," he said. "But at this point, we haven’t found anyone
who’s consistently 100 percent.”
Still, Fowler pointed out, the difficulty of tracing these products
back to their manufacturers means it may take time to settle on a
dependable brand. “We buy from American repackagers, but we
don’t know what their sources are," he said. "We have no idea
where this stuff comes from.”
Still, not everyone is convinced there's a problem with the CYA.
Chemists in the industry say first-hand experiences with these
imported conditioners are hard to come by, and actual samples are
Jack Beane, owner of Jack’s Magic Products in Largo, Fla., finds it
hard to believe that American importers would have any motivation
to resell a cut-strength conditioner.
“It’s a low-end commodity,” he said.
“It’s not a high-end specialty product, where it would
serve any purpose for anybody to cut it. [Importers] are probably
getting a certificate of analysis with it, and those are done by
chemists who put their reputation on the line when they sign off on
Beane acknowledged that contaminated CYA has made its way into the
USA in previous years; however, he added, importers have always
tracked down the source of the problem and issued refunds or
Touraj Rowhani, a senior research chemist at Arch
Chemicals in New Castle, Del., agreed with Beane’s
assessment. “Cyanuric acid doesn’t go anywhere,”
Rowhani said. “Once you add it, the level either increases or
stays the same; it’s very stable in water. It may go down 10
ppm on the test, but it doesn’t sink to zero. The only way to
get rid of it is to drain the pool or precipitate it out with the
reagent melamine. This sounds like a testing issue.”
As CYA continues to raise questions, it’s becoming clear that
resolution depends on documentation and communication.
U.S. law already requires extensive analysis and safety paperwork
for hundreds of chemicals. Rather than point fingers at
manufacturers and importers, Beane said those who buy cyanuric acid
should insist on proper credentials, including a certificate of
analysis, for every barrel. If a repackager can’t — or
won’t — provide the document, they may be worthy of
Another option is to collaborate with chemical labs by sending
samples in for independent testing. But that collaboration will
depend on both sides taking some initiative. Peck has tried for
several years to convince distributors to commit to testing his
samples, but has received little positive response.
In the end, until the truth becomes clear, Fowler said, “the
key is to test regularly, and keep changing products until you find
one that you have some confidence in.”