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Chlorine Is The Latest Shortage, How This Will Affect Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs

First it was toilet paper. Next, it was disinfectants, followed by face masks and other personal protective equipment. Then, it was a whole array of different items, ranging from yeast to condoms to kettlebells to jigsaw puzzles to aluminum cans, not that all of these items are necessarily used together at the same time. Now the latest shortage that the U.S. is facing is, let’s pool our guesses together: chlorine.

Yep, throughout much of 2020, it seemed like every month another household product was in short supply. Things that you had assumed would always be available suddenly disappeared from store shelves and online sites. Often, the shortages occurred simultaneously. So planning that jigsaw puzzle, bread baking, and condom theme party could have been challenging. At times, last year, it may have felt like the only thing not in short supply was angst. After all, the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic essentially ripped the cover off of many existing weak links in our society, including deficient supply chains, like you might rip the plastic packaging off of a One Direction figurine box.

The latest shortage is chlorine, which can come in the form of tablets, powders, and liquids. Chlorination may sound like something you do when you put a crown or tiara on someone’s head. But instead it is the process of putting the right amounts of chlorine in a swimming pool, a hot tub, a jacuzzi, or basically any similar container of water where your hot bod may go. Chlorine is important because swimming pools and similar receptacles can otherwise be filled with algae and dangerous microbes like cryptosporidium, legionella, and brain-eating amoeba. In general, it’s a good idea to stay from anything that has the words “brain-eating” such as brain-eating politician, brain-eating cat, or brain-eating pizza.

The shortage appears to be the result of two issues. One is that the pandemic has seemed to boost demand for chlorine. This is hopefully not because people are injecting and ingesting chlorine. You should never inject or ingest any such cleaning material. Instead, the increased demand may be due to the pandemic limiting some traditional indoor recreational options like standing in a crowded bar yelling “dude”, “wooo”, “YOLO”, and “what the bleep did you just say” to each other. As a result, folks may be opting for other at-home or outdoors recreational activities such as using swimming pools and sitting in jacuzzis while yelling “dude”, “wooo”, and “YOLO” at each other.

The other issue is supply. As reported by Liz Hampton and Jessica Resnick-Aultright for Reuters last August, the Biolab Lake Charles facility in Louisiana erupted into flames after Hurricane Laura hit. This led to the shutdown of one of the major chlorine suppliers until the spring 2022, leaving only two current manufacturers of chlorine tablets in the U.S.: Occidental Petroleum and Clearon Corporation.

Relying on just three suppliers for anything is risky, which is essentially what happens when industries move more towards monopolies. Imagine being told that you only have three options of dates: the guy who posted the shirtless selfie while holding a fish in his hand, the guy who posted the shirtless selfie while holding the even bigger fish in his hand, or the guy who posted the shirtless selfie but forgot the fish. Or perhaps the woman who wants you to be shirtless and hold a fish in your hand, the woman who wants you to be holding an even bigger fish, or the woman who is holding a picture of a guy who is shirtless and holding a fish in his hand. Ultimately, having a greater number of options will help better maintain quality, lower prices, redundancy should demand increase, and the possibility of dating someone who doesn’t post shirtless selfies.

All of this means that chlorine prices will probably jump up and anyone with a swimming pool, a hot tub, a jacuzzi, or a water park may not be able to get all the chlorine that they want or need. Therefore, be extra cautious before entering any such recreational water area that you yourself have not maintained because the operator could be skimping on the chlorine. Check to see if the water looks dirty or if insects seem to be having a “gender reveal” party on the water. Certainly if a mass of algae in the pool asks you “how you doing,” the water probably does not have enough chlorine in it. Make sure that the pool, tub, or water park is being regularly inspected by officials (and not just hedgehogs and squirrels) and has a proper filtration and cleaning system in place.

Moreover, do what you can to keep the pool or tub clean. More dirt and contaminants may mean more chlorine is needed. So, try to shower before entering the pool or tub. This may not be the best time for that “One Hundred People in a Hot Tub” party. Or to invite that “Showering is a hoax” guy into the swimming pool. Keep other animals like dogs, cats, and honey badgers out of the tub or pool. They can carry even more microbes because they essentially run around naked all the time without showering.

You may want to consider alternatives to using chlorine. Of course, one of the alternatives should not be, “don’t use anything” or “use ketchup instead.” There are other options such as saltwater, ultraviolet (UV) light, and other systems to keep things clean. However, just because someone comes up with a fancy name like “Jar Dabs” for a pool cleaning system doesn’t mean that it actually works. Don’t try any new system without first consulting with real swimming pool professionals. It’s not a great idea to experiment on yourself and others with a new system and then ask everyone afterwards, “hey, that was some fun time in the pool, right? By the way, how are your eyes, ears, and intestines doing?” Even worse, you don’t want to end up in the emergency room, saying, “guess that cleaning system didn’t really work on microbes.”