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Have you ever wondered what was or wasn’t in a container of pool and spa chemicals? Have you followed the directions on chemicals but still had problems? You are not alone. Many people assume that someone is verifying manufacturer claims about pool and spa chemical effectiveness. 

The industry has come to realize the need to address these and other issues related to the safety and usability of water treatment chemicals in pools and spas. Importantly, the industry sought to do so in a manner that would ensure open and balanced participation from all stakeholders — consumers, pubic officials, facility operators, product manufacturers, and chemical manufacturers.

In 2011, the NSF/ANSI Standard 50 (NSF-50) Joint Committee on Recreational Water Facilities formed a Task Group (TG) to develop the evaluation, testing, and certification requirements for chemicals and materials in contact with pool and spa water.  NSF-50 already contains some requirements for the evaluation of pool and spa chemicals, but some of these requirements relate to chemical generation and feeding systems or to the material formulation and health safety of chemicals. 

The TG is comprised of public health officials from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), public health officials from multiple states, pool and spa service companies, and many pool and spa product and chemical manufacturers.  This group has met monthly to discuss the potential evaluation criteria as well as identification of which groups or classes of chemicals will be addressed. The TG is also developing pool and spa chemical product requirements related to verification of percent active ingredient, verification of efficacy and claims, contaminant review and testing, and annual auditing. 

Incorporated from NSF/ANSI Standard 60 for drinking water treatment chemicals, the TG has consulted with NSF’s toxicology team to review risk assessments and requirements for chemicals that treat drinking water as a foundation for developing the requirements for pool/spa water. In recent months, NSF has also hosted participants from New York Department of Health, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, and US EPA Antimicrobials to discuss their current risk assessment criteria as it relates to pool and spa chemical evaluation. 

The NSF-50 TG is working with key state and federal public officials and groups that have existing oversight, rules, and regulations for pool and spa chemicals and their marking or use.  For instance the risk modeling of the US EPA considers three different routes of introduction:

1oral route of exposure

2dermal route of exposure

3inhalation route of exposure

The task group is determining how to blend the traditional NSF risk assessment of food and water products from existing national standard for food and water products with the US EPA risk assessment approach used for anti-microbial products.

The task group has considered virtually all types of water contact materials and chemicals that might be used at a recreational water facility, pool or spa. Those products were then categorized to help create consistency in how similarly used products would be evaluated. The task group has also formed the following six groups or classes of products and chemicals for further development of requirements:

1Pool/Spa disinfectants & sanitizers (copper, silver, chlorine, bromine, etc. type compounds) As well as disinfectant precursors and stabilizers (NaCl, NaBr, cyanuric acid, etc. type compounds)

2Pool/Spa oxidative additives (peroxide, enzyme, etc)

3Pool/Spa water balance chemicals (pH adjustment additives such as acids, bases, buffers, etc.)

4Pool/Spa clarifiers and filtration aids (flocculants, coagulants, chelants, sequesterants, etc.)

5Pool/Spa use barrier materials and other products (coatings, liners, protective, sealants, surfaces, evaporative loss reduction materials and chemicals, etc.)

Product manufacturers would like there to be a fair umpire to manage claim verification and help reign in unscrupulous and rogue elements in the chemical distribution and production industry. Public officials and facility operators would like to have confidence in the purity and efficacy of the chemicals that are used at pools and spas. NSF has acted as that independent trustworthy arbiter, working to resolve discord and achieve agreement between manufacturers, distributors, installers, users, and public officials for over 50 years. The next steps for the NSF-50 Chemicals Task Group include:

1Continued refinement of risk assessment criteria used for different classes of chemicals.

2Drafting and balloting of specific requirements for performance evaluation of each chemical product type.

3Specification of quality assurance and quality control procedures required at the production site.

4Formatting and minimum required details/content for the official listing of chemicals.

5Educational content and language regarding chemical dosing and use at the pool/spa.