By Pier-Olivier Hamel
A 2004 study presented to the EPA by Mike Robinson showed that bromine is not only a great sanitizer, but that it is also a disinfectant, which works more quickly than a sanitizer. In order to make sure no harmful by-products are created by bromine systems, the Environmental Protection Agency requires the sodium bromide to be registered under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The EPA requires Efficacy Studies which include how well a product works, risk assessment demonstrating the potential risks associated with use and a field study. These field studies are controlled, and include bacteriological and chemical testing in hot tubs using the product undergoing review. Risk assessment is calculated using preset guidelines from the EPA regarding different ions, bather load, temperature and more. All results are passed through a committee, and often follow-up studies are done to clarify parameters or to give more in-depth results.
The EPA laws exist to protect consumers. Using unregistered sodium bromide is not only illegal, but may be potentially harmful. If you are selling or using an unregistered sodium bromide to be used in a bromine generator you are in violation of FIFRA. Depending on where you are, the severity of the infraction, and the nature of your business, you could be looking at up to $500 000 in fines and three years in prison. It must be also understood that sodium bromide for use with bromine generators must be registered with the EPA in all 50 states in the U.S. A similar law (Pest Control Product Act) also exist in Canada: Health Canada requires all pesticides (including bromine) to be registered with a process resembling the EPA’s registration.
While it may not be as well known as chlorine, bromine presents many advantages over chlorine for hot tub sanitization. It is much more stable in the high temperatures of a hot tub, it produces less odor, and it doesn’t require a stabilizer. As long as sunlight exposure is kept to a minimum, it is probably the best option out there. Generators are also well worth the investment, even if they are relatively new to the market. Especially for customers who are new to hot tub ownership, who may be put off by the maintenance required to balance chlorine, or bromine in other forms. Generators are also useful for clients who travel, have a secondary spa, or who don’t have the time to balance their water frequently (potentially putting themselves at risk). Take the time to do the research and understand the pros and cons of each product, and make decisions based on what is best for each individual’s needs. Regardless of the option chosen by the customer, it is very important to make sure that every product meets the appropriate safety standards.
For more information visit http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/P-9.01/ in Canada, and http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/lfra.html in the US. The University of Perdue has a list of registered products that you can find at http://ppis.ceris.purdue.edu/. Health Canada has its database at http://pr-rp.hc-sc.gc.ca/pi-ip/index-eng.php.