Beware of Public Swimming Pools!

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A rise in the number of pool-related illnesses has prompted the largest report ever done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the safety of public swimming pools.

The Associated Press is reporting that the new government report, which is based on the inspection of more than 120,000 public pools in 13 states in 2008, found that one in eight public swimming pools had to be shut down for problems such as dirty water and missing safety equipment. This is a marked increase from a smaller report based on five states done in 2002 that found only one in 12 pools with health risks serious enough to cause them to be closed. 

Fecal particles were a common problem, especially in kiddie pools, but urine was also a problem. It contains nitrogen which eats up chlorine in pool water. Sweat and suntan lotion have the same effect.

As a result, about 15 to 20 outbreaks of stomach bugs caused by unclean pool water occur every year. A quarter of these illnesses were found to be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that should have been killed by proper water treatment.

Officials are unsure as to whether or not the increase in pool-related illnesses, which have been rising for the last decade, is because conditions are getting worse or because testing is getting better.

The CDC is suggested that before going swimming in a public pool such as a neighborhood swim club or hotel pool, people should test the water with kits that can be purchased at hardware stores.

They also recommend that persons with diarrhea should not swim and everyone should avoid swallowing pool water.

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