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Pool Chemical Safety and Mandatory EPA Labeling: The Facts

Swimming pools are a popular and refreshing way to cool off during hot summer months. However, maintaining a clean and safe swimming pool requires the use of pool chemicals. These chemicals are essential for keeping the water clean and free from harmful bacteria and algae. While pool chemicals are a necessity, they can be hazardous if used incorrectly. At In The Swim, we pride ourselves on offering a wide selection of high-quality, affordable pool chemicals. But more importantly, all our chemicals are tested and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure the highest level of safety and efficacy.

Knock-off chemicals sold in public marketplaces rarely offer the same quality or efficacy as name-brand pool chemicals distributed by trusted pool supply companies. Furthermore, these cheaper knock-offs often don't bear a registered, EPA-approved chemical label. While using off-brand chemicals may not seem problematic, using chemicals not registered with the EPA can pose serious concerns for you and your pool. Without proper EPA approval, pool owners should not expect these chemicals to properly treat their pool, nor should they assume these chemicals are safe to handle.

What Does EPA-Approved Mean?

The EPA is a federal agency responsible for protecting public health and the environment. One of the agency's responsibilities is to regulate the labeling of certain classes of pool chemicals that kill algae and bacteria. Products that bear an EPA-approved label include specific information to help consumers safely use the products.

EPA labeling provides critical information about the composition of pool chemicals, including the active ingredients, and their potential health effects. This information helps consumers make informed decisions about the products they are using in their pool.

One of the essential pieces of information on EPA labeling is the signal word. The signal word, either "danger," "warning," or "caution," indicates the severity of potential health effects of the chemical. This labeling helps consumers determine the appropriate precautions to take when using the product.

Why EPA Approval is Important for Pool Chemicals

Pool chemicals approved by the EPA are safe for use in swimming pools, have undergone rigorous testing, and meet strict standards for health and environmental safety. One of the most important reasons why EPA approval is important for pool chemicals is safety. Off-brand or cheap pool chemicals not registered with or approved by the EPA may contain harmful chemicals that can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, or even more serious health issues. These chemicals can also pose a risk to the environment, as they may be toxic to aquatic life or contribute to water pollution.

Another critical piece of information on EPA labeling is the list of active ingredients. Active ingredients are the chemicals in the product responsible for eliminating bacteria and algae, and sanitizing the pool water. The list of active ingredients is essential, because it indicates the function of each chemical. For example, the active ingredient in our 3" chlorine tablets is 99% Trichloro-S-Triazinetrione. This information, listed clearly on the front of every bucket of our chlorine tablets, shows customers exactly what the product contains.

EPA approval also ensures that pool chemicals are effective in treating the water. Chemicals not registered with and approved by the EPA may not work as well as advertised and cause dirty, cloudy, or unsafe pool water. Approved chemicals meet strict efficacy, safety, and environmental-friendliness standards

What to Look For on EPA Product Labels

Wondering how to tell if your chlorine or algaecide products are EPA approved? Well, if you bought them from In The Swim, they definitely are! But knowing how to read an EPA label is important, because it provides detailed information about how to safely and legally handle the chemical. Each product label includes the recommended dosage, how to store the product, and what to do in case of accidental exposure. 

Additionally, all pool chemicals registered with the EPA contain this simple statement: “It is a violation of Federal law to use the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” This statement is a clear indication of the legal weight the EPA carries. Labels also include key elements like the EPA registration number, establishment number, and the name of the manufacturer of the product. Check out the image below to see where these key elements are located on a tub of In The Swim chlorine tablets:

EPA-approved label on In The Swim's 3" chlorine tablets
EPA-approved label of In The Swim chlorine tablets

Examples of Product Labels to Avoid

Unfortunately, many off-brand, cheap pool chemicals do a great job of hiding the fact that they're not EPA approved. Fancy packaging, big, confusing words, and professional-sounding instructions can easily fool customers into purchasing the product. While your best bet is to buy trusted, name-brand products, let's look at a few examples of chemical labels that aren't EPA approved, so you know what to avoid:

off-brand pool chemical not EPA-approved
Example of chorine tablets NOT registered with or approved by the EPA

The product label above does not list any of the required elements for an EPA label, which is a major red flag. Products like this often claim to be a high-quality product, but instead are often filled with binding agents, glue, and other fillers that build up in your pool water drastically lower the chemical's effectiveness and longevity. Not to mention, the poorly-written information and instructions are also a glaring red flag! You can rest assured that you'll never run into these types of concerns with products from In The Swim.

If you're currently using unapproved, knock-off chemicals in your pool, we advise you stop using them immediately and properly dispose of them to avoid causing harm to yourself or your pool. Call 1-800-CLEANUP or contact your local waste management company for information about safe disposal options.

In The Swim — A Name You Can Trust

When shopping for pool chemicals, especially from online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, or eBay, it's critical to pay close attention to the product labels. Verify that it's a product registered with the EPA and that the label clearly lists the ingredients. If a product doesn't have an EPA label, or doesn't display the chemical composition, take it out of your shopping cart and head to In The Swim instead!

In The Swim makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and In The Swim assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. In The Swim assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.