High Copper Levels in Pools Can Be Dangerous

Published: Jul. 14, 2007 at 1:23 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2007 at 7:12 PM EDT
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This is what Rebecca Derr's eight-yeart-old daughter's hair looked like after swimming in this pool at the Comfort Inn on Macon Road, discolored.

And there were signs early on, something wasn't right.

"My daughter one of the six-year-olds said I just don't feel good, and I knew it was from her swallowing some of the water and I said oh, you're going to be okay and it was within two to three minutes she threw up and within 30 seconds to a minute, my son threw up, her twin brother," says Derr.

So they left the pool, notified the front desk, and headed to their room to shower.

That's when they noticed the bluish-green color in their hair and on their bathing suits.

After realizing the symptoms may have been connected, the Derr's surfed the web for answers.

"A lot of people think it's chlorine, but it's not, it's copper in the water that causes the green color."

Experts say copper is often found in chemical agents used to rid pools of algae, but high levels can be dangerous.

The Derr's were determined to figure out what happened. They took a water sample and got a report from Aquarius Pools. Copper levels tested at six...while the ideal amount is zero.

The Derr Family also contacted the local health department.  It's not required to test for copper, but its report did reveal low chlorine and ph levels.   Comfort Inn Officials shut the pool down voluntarily and re-opened about one week later.

General Manager Chetan Desai says he checks pool levels twice a day and they were fine, prior to the Derr's incident.

And he says the health department's results were out of whack for good reason.

"Well, I had to shock the pool, after the incident, and after the child threw up, we had to shock the pool and once you shock the pool, you know all the balance, the pool is not going to be balanced until that shocking effect is gone," says Desai.

But Desai does admit a subsequent test revealed copper levels higher than recommended, so they've since taken action to prevent the problem from re-occuring.

"We now have a copper testing kit on site, so we do copper testing on daily basis now."

But, Derr says that's not enough. She says health officials should be testing for more than just disinfecting chemicals and families should take matters into their own hands.

"I want to educate consumers that don't just assume that you're at a hotel or even you know any public pool that it's maintained properly, don't make those assumptions because your family's health could be at risk," says Derr.

Newsleader 9 has also spoken with another family, this one from Texas, who experieced similar problems while at the Comfort Inn during the same period.

There are pool testing kits consumers can buy to use when visiting public pools.

Desai's copper testing kit cost about $10, he says he purchased it online.

Health officials are not required to test for copper levels in pools.