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Thread: water chemistry and the eyes

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    water chemistry and the eyes

    My 3 year old stays under the water with his eyes open almost the whole time he is in the pool. This has never been a big problem, but both the boys would complain a bit about their eyes so I added salt a couple of weeks ago.

    I have always had to make my youngest get out of the pool to go inside. He loves swimming. Recently, he has started screaming and crying, saying that his eyes hurt after we have been in the water about 15 minutes. And he wants to go inside. His eye are not turning red, but he is in pain. He is a tough little boy and this is really causing him a lot of pain.

    Yesterday when this happened we got out of the pool and came in. He was fine after a little while, but then about 2 hours later during bath time he started screaming again saying his eyes hurt. Today we went to the public little activity pool up in Tallahassee and he was having so much fun, but then he started screaming again about his eyes and wanted to leave. We did, but then he would freak out every few minutes on the drive home (about an hour).

    I have been testing my water and it has been better than ever, but I took it to the reliable pool store just for a second opinion and they agreed the numbers were good: FC 5, CC 0, TA 90 (I think), pH 7.6, CH 250, CYA 40, and salt 2100.

    I called the eye doctor and he said that it just sounds like he is sensitive or allergic to something in the pool water and to use goggles. Do you know how hard it is to get goggles on an active 3 year old boy? Hard. I tried today, but couldn't get them adjusted right and water kept getting in them. I'm going to try a mask tomorrow, but I'm wondering if anyone else has had any problems like this? His eyes aren't red, just burning. Any suggestions?

    I have thought about adding borates but went with salt since it seemed easier. Can I add borates now?

    Also, I am always fighting a rising pH, I think due to aeration, and so I use muriatic acid. I used it yesterday at least 4 hours before we swam. Shouldn't that have been long enough for it to mix in?

    Sorry for the rambling thoughts. I'm just concerned and want to help him enjoy swimming again and want to give y'all all the information I can think of that will help you help me. Thanks!
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Do you know your salt level or how much you added?
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    It's also possible that there is an infection of his eyes. If it persists, an Ophthalmologist should see him.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Goggles?
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Wouldn't too high a pH or too low a pH cause this? My husband went in with our son a couple of weeks ago and actually complained that his eyes were burning. I never open my eyes under water unless I'm wearing goggles - usually my scuba mask/snorkle (yes, pretending that we're diving again ) But I immediately checked our pH and it was within range like it was last summer.

    So it might be good to know your pH - you said it keeps going high.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    A 3 year old that loves the water so much deserves our admiration and effort to find a solution to this problem
    Three things come to mind:
    Lower the pH to 7.2-7.3.
    Lower FC to 3.
    There are some rare cases of bacteria in the water which hurt the eyes and can even cause damage. If the other two mentioned above don't help try shocking and then re-use when FC drops back to 3.
    Boric acid is renowned to help hurting eyes. If all of the above fail try adding borates to 50 ppm.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Lowering the PH is a bad idea. The PH is just fine right now. Lowering it will move it further away from the natural PH of the eye and is more likely to cause problems. Eye irritation is frequently reported when the PH is around 7.2, and exceedingly rare when the PH is around 7.6.

    Likewise lowering the chlorine level is also likely to cause new problems and isn't going to help with eye irritation. Low FC levels encourage the formation of CC, which is one of the leading causes of eye irritation.

    Adding borates is great, but it isn't likely to help either. Borates help improve the water "feel" but don't have any particular correlation with eye irritation.

    Your water chemistry is already just about ideal for eyes as far as the numbers go. I am afraid you need to look somewhere else for the source of the problem.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    Adding borates is great, but it isn't likely to help either. Borates help improve the water "feel" but don't have any particular correlation with eye irritation.
    I have to disagree on this, based on knowledge and also personal experience. Try this for example.
    A quote:
    Boric acid ophthalmic (for the eyes) is used as an eye wash to cleanse or irrigate the eyes. Boric acid provides soothing relief from eye irritation, and helps remove pollutants from the eye such as smog, chlorine, or other chemicals.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    but what is the level of the therapeutic boric acid? chem geek talks about it a little, though I think in a different sense, here:
    so-you-want-to-add-borates-to-your-pool-why-and-how-t4921-80.html
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    As I noted in this post, boric acid used in ocular washes is on the order of 2000 ppm or so which is much higher than the 50 ppm in pools. I have no idea if the 50 ppm Borates in pools would be of benefit, but it is unlikely to be a problem.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Is this something that just started? How was it last season? Could the brand of chemicals have anything to do with it? Maybe something that you changed this season may be causing it?
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Thanks for all your replies! This is a problem that just started with the pool (which we just got this year), but I think in general he has sensitive eyes since he has always complained when he has his face washed even though the bottle of wash says "no tears". We have stayed out of the pool the past few days to give his eyes a chance to recover. We are going to go in this afternoon barring any storms like we had yesterday (fried my Directv somehow) and I have 3 different types of goggles/maskes to try on him. Wish me luck! I am also going to add the borates since it won't hurt to try and will improve the feel of the water (for my son with sensitive skin...sigh). So I'm back to reading again the thread on adding borates. I went with salt first because I was not confident on my ability to correctly add the borates. Wish me more luck and thanks again!
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    My 8 yo has used a "mask" since age 2, both my kids prefer the mask to goggles. I think your 3yo would be quite happy with one.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    You might also try checking with a different eye doctor. If all of a sudden his eyes are hurting from multiple water sources (bath, public pool, your pool) then maybe its more than sensitivity.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    I have been reading a lot about red eyes tonight. I can't sleep and I got red eyes out of my pool . I have read papers, posts (here and other forums) and have not been able to find an article that puts there finger on what the issue is baring all known issues. The list of known issues is long, including high CC levels, high chlorine levels, high and low pH (this is questionable per one article), etc. However, if all these are ruled out there must be some other reason why we get red eyes at exposure times > 30 min. Richard is the only person, that I can find, in another post that tries to explain an issue of osmotic pressure but Richard does not cite the source of his osmotic pressure conclusion. Here is his post:

    "Even with ideal pH of 7.5 (see this link) and no chloramines, your eyes are going to get irritated if you keep them open in water that isn't high in TDS. Human tears have around 9000 ppm so a standard pool with 500-1500 ppm is likely going to give you a problem. Even saltwater chlorine generator (SWCG) pools with 3000 ppm salt will still cause pressure and swelling in the eye, though it will take longer. One would need to get near 7000 ppm TDS before one eliminates the problem (see this paper).

    The problem is due to osmotic pressure since the water in the pool is more concentrated than in your eye (the extra salt in your bodily fluids makes the water less concentrated) so water enters into your eye until the pressure in the eye builds up to equal this osmotic pressure. Over time, this pressure irritates the eye. Note that this issue has nothing to do with chlorine -- having your eyes under pure water would cause the same problem, probably even faster.

    Richard"

    Is Osmotic Pressure the true culprit here, baring all other known issues?
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    There are many separate possible causes of eye irritation. Low PH will do it. CC will do it. Low FC levels allowing bacterial infection will do it. All three of those are fairly common and cause irritation fairly rapidly. There are other possible causes, but they are all rather less common and more difficult to diagnose. The TDS issue would only show up after many hours with your eyes open underwater and would be very unlikely to be as irritating as you describe. Other possibilities include is a non-pool related eye irritation that happens to show up the same day you were swimming, allergies to suntan lotion floating on the surface of the water, and so on.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    How about bug spray or sunscreen.

    Coincidentally, I noticed today while swimming that my vision got a bit blurry about half way through and my eyes are a tiny bit red and a bit uncomfortable. I happened to be reading this, still in swimsuit and towel, through blurry eyes now. The only thing that is different today from any other day is that I was doing yard work and had on both suncreen and bug spray. I figured I'd been hit by the sprinkler enough to wash most of those off, as I was working on sprinkler repairs also. But I did not actively scrub off the bug spray.

    I will go test the pool, anyhow, to see if it could be CCs, but I doubt it.
    [edit] Test: FC 3.0, CC 0, TA 80, pH 7.7, CH 250 (+/-25), CYA 40 -- Adding chlorine now, via cal-hypo.

    pH was 7.7 two days ago and I added MA to correct to 7.5, didn't swim that day but swam the next day (assume pH was 7.6) and no blurry vision.


    So, does anyone else have any correlation with bug spray or sunscreen use with the red eyes?
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Quote Originally Posted by benavidescj
    Richard is the only person, that I can find, in another post that tries to explain an issue of osmotic pressure but Richard does not cite the source of his osmotic pressure conclusion.
    As was noted by others, there are many possible factors for irritation, but even if you control for everything else you will still have the osmotic pressure issue unless the pool has rather high TDS levels. Though salt levels of 3000 ppm typically found in SWG pools would be better, they still aren't close enough to the 9000 ppm levels in human tears to avoid the problem completely. In this post I linked to this paper that talks about various factors of eye irritation where it was concluded that osmotic pressure was likely to be the primary factor. That paper is from 1973 published in the Journal of Hygiene in Cambridge (Great Britain).
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    Thanks Richard, that is the paper I read, but it does not mention osmotic pressure.
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    Re: water chemistry and the eyes

    You are right. The paper only refers to the salinity (salt as in sodium chloride) level, but it is well known that a difference in water concentration across a semipermeable membrane will result in osmotic pressure. So I am making an assumption here as to the root cause of the soreness of the eyes and it could very well be that sodium and chloride leave the eye rather than water entering it (or both), but it doesn't really matter if less irritation is due to higher salt levels from some other mechanism since the solution is the same -- namely to have higher salt levels in the pool closer to 9000 ppm (or at least 7000 ppm as indicated in the study). The problem is that this comes at a higher cost of other issues, mostly related to faster rates of metal corrosion and degradation of soft stone.
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