Unhealthy pools are more common than you may think. Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), underscores the importance of protecting yourself and your family at the pool this summer. The CDC reports a disturbing statistic: About 1 out of 8 public pool inspections conducted in 13 states in 2008 resulted in pools being closed immediately due to serious code violations. The venues that had the most disinfection violations were kiddie/wading pools and water play areas.
Improperly chlorinated water puts swimmers at risk for recreational water illnesses like diarrhea and ear and skin infections. This summer the CDC is encouraging all swimmers to be activists - check your pool water and immediately report any problems to pool staff. Test strips are a quick and easy way to measure if there is adequate chlorine to kill germs and if pH is in the proper range. Swimmers can take action to protect themselves with free pool test kits offered by the Water Quality & Health Council on its website.
"You can't always trust your fellow swimmer to practice healthy swimming habits," said Chris Wiant, Chair of the Water Quality and Health Council. "But, what you can do is test the chlorine level and pH of the water to make sure your pool is properly treated - and immediately approach pool staff if it is not."
Test strips are an easy way to check the water and maintain a healthy pool. When testing pool water, swimmers should be sure that the free chlorine level is between 1.0 and 4.0 parts per million (ppm) and the pH registers between 7.2 and 7.8.
The 2009 survey by the Water Quality and Health Council found that one in five Americans pee in the pool. Urine, as well as sweat and even sunscreen, contains nitrogen that eats up some of a pool's free chlorine, making it less effective in fighting off waterborne germs. To ensure on-the-spot protection, it is important to regularly adjust a pool's chlorine levels.
Young children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to those germs that cause recreational water illnesses (RWI). These illnesses are on the rise. In just two years, between 2005 and 2006, 78 outbreaks were reported in 31 states - the largest number of outbreaks ever in a two-year period. Close to 4,500 people were affected.
"Chlorine and pH are a key defense against germs that can make swimmers sick," said Michele Hlavsa, Chief of the Healthy Swimming Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "When you visit a public pool, you can test the water yourself to help ensure a healthy swimming experience."
Are you swimming in an unhealthy pool? You can use your senses to recognize the signs:
- CANNOT SEE the floor drain in the deep end of the pool
- CANNOT HEAR the pool pump running
- SMELL a strong chemical odor
- FEEL sliminess on tile walls
Source: The Water Quality and Health Council (WQHC) is a body of independent scientific experts, health professionals and consumer advocates who serve as advisors to the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association.