Today inquiry came to us from a concerned woman that heard some potentially disturbing news regarding poisoned swimming pool antifreeze, a false rumor as far as we have heard.
“While in [insert name of large retail chain store here] looking for a small bucket of chlorine pucks to tide us over until we close the pool in a few weeks we heard a man nsay something about poisoned anti-freeze for pools. Have you heard of this? Can test for this? Thanks, MamaMissy”
First of all, why would someone go through the trouble of lacing antifreeze with a poison? What would they possibly gain from such an act?
And secondly, most anti-freeze is already a form of poison and should not get consumed… but the story does not end there.
Typically in swimming pool anti-freeze you will find a compound called Propylene Glycol, a compound that does have the potential to cause harm to a person if accidentally ingested. However, according to the United States Food & Drug Administration this same compound may get used in certain applications involving food because of its low toxicity.
In other words, the stuff does not pack enough of a punch in small doses to do any real harm. Its ‘cousin’, a compound called Ethylene Glycol, on the other hand, gets used in industrial and automotive applications and will cause harm in small doses. For that reason the United States Food & Drug Administration does not permit the use of ethylene glycol in any application where it could accidentally, or intentionally, get ingested.
- Both ethylene glycol and propylene glycol get used in different types of antifreeze products, but only propylene glycol can get used in applications where it could accidentally leak in a manner that could cause it to come into contact w/ people and/or get consumed in minute amounts.
- Automotive antifreeze normally contains ethylene glycol, has a bright color to it, and can have a sweetish scent & odor. Health officials suggest storing all mixtures containing ethylene glycol in elevated locations and cleaning all spills immediately since the compounds sweet and colorful nature can make it intriguing to both animals and children.
So… getting back to the notion that a person may have intentionally tainted pool antifreeze, the idea makes little to no sense. If anything, we suppose the story of poisoned swimming pool antifreeze may have resulted from a real-life case of a non-chemically savvy person dumping a product like car/truck antifreeze (which contained ethylene glycol) into their pool lines because they A) believed it would save them money; B) didn’t bother to read the directions; or C) flat out had no idea what the heck they were doing.
With that said, if you don’t know for sure the right way to winterize your pool, seek the advice and/or assistance of those who do!