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Published On: February 25, 2014
 By: Carol Carter, California

HEALTH CATEGORY  

HEALTH SAFETY TIPS BEFORE SWIMMING POOLS

CASA POOLS, LUXURY FIBERGLASS SWIMMING POOLS | LEBANON SWIMMING POOL BLOG | WATER FILTRATION & TREATMENT | INTEX POOLS

health safety tips before swimming pools



For those repulsed by scatological topics, time to change the channel.

But those planning to swim today, the traditional opening day for public swimming pools, or any time this summer might want to stop eating and learn about the human causes of recreational water illnesses.

To the point, human feces lurk in public swimming pools.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says so in its May 16 report. It tested backwash behind pool water filtering systems and found genetic material typical of what is found in human feces.

The Water Quality & Health Council already has reported that nearly 1 in 5 people admit to having urinated in a swimming pool. While 1 out of 3 say they never shower before entering the pool, swimmers say 3 out of 4 of their fellow swimmers don`t shower before taking a plunge.

But No. 2 in the chlorinated stew?

"A study of public pools done during last summer`s swim season found that feces are frequently introduced into pool water by swimmers," the CDC states.

Nearly 60 percent of the backwash samples tested positive for E. coli -- bacteria normally found in the human gut and feces, the CDC said, noting that "E. coli is a marker for fecal contamination."

The cause, the CDC delicately explains, is that swimmers contaminate pool water when they have "a fecal incident in the water or when feces rinse off their bodies because they do not shower thoroughly before getting into the water."

In slightly less horrifying news, the CDC said none of the backwash samples tested positive for a toxin-producing E. coli strain that causes illness. Testing methods the CDC used didn`t indicate whether the detected germs were alive or able to cause infections.

But 59 percent of the samples did contain Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes skin rashes and ear infections. Their source is either the surrounding environment or swimmers. Cryptosporidium and Giardia, germs that spread through feces and cause diarrhea, were found in less than 2 percent of the samples.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports "an increase over the past decade in the number of outbreaks of illness associated with swimming," despite improvements in recreational water quality from modern disinfection systems in pools and environmental improvements in lakes, rivers and oceans.

In a 2008 report released in 2010, the CDC also found that the most common recreational water illness is gastroenteritis, which has been on the increase. That indicates lapses in proper operation of pools. The report, the CDC said, "suggests the need for increased public health scrutiny and improved pool operation."

Health officials say it is necessary to change human behavior to stop germs from contaminating pool water and causing infections.

Mary Ostrowski, director of chlorine issues for the American Chemistry Council, said on average a person carries about 0.14 grams of fecal matter on his or her body, which gets into the water should the person fail to shower with soap beforehand.

"Even if the water is disinfected with chlorine, the microbes are getting into the pool, and you can`t ignore that fact nor how they got in there," she said. "It`s on the bodies of swimmers. That`s why the CDC is so adamant that you need to shower with soap before you swim."

It also takes time for chlorine to kill bacteria, she said.

Improved swimmer hygiene is key to reducing recreational water illnesses. In other words:

Don`t pee in the pool.

Shower with soap with a focus on cleaning one`s bottom area before entering the pool.

Don`t swim with diarrhea.

Avoid getting water in the mouth, and never swallow pool water.

Avoid swimming when you have a runny nose or a rash.

Ammonia from urine and perspiration mix with chlorine to form a type of chloramine, which causes the chemical smell of pool water often mistaken for the smell of chlorine. Chloramine, which causes itching and eye irritation and redness, can tie up available chlorine, making less available to kill bacteria, Ms. Ostrowski said.

Ideally, swimming pool water should have a chlorine concentration of 2 to 3 parts per million and a pH level that is slightly alkaline.

"On a hot day with lots of people in the pool, you have high chlorine demand," she said. "With a lot of people in the pool with children and adults urinating and perspiring, it is the job of the pool operator to make sure chlorine levels are adequate."

Ms. Ostrowski said pool-water testing kits are available at pool supply stores. Anyone measuring a problem with water quality should alert the pool operator and file a complaint with the appropriate health department if the problem isn`t resolved.

In counties and cities without a health department, the state Health Department inspects new public pools and whenever a complaint is filed against any other public pools or bathing place.

Annually, the Allegheny County Health Department inspects 439 public, school, apartment and condominium pools, along with public spas and hot tubs, with follow-up inspections if problems are found. The county also requires pool operators to test pool water every two hours that the pool is open and send a weekly water sample to a laboratory to have bacteria levels tested.



 
 
 
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