U.S. officials have warned against using public swimming pools to cool off this summer.
With the hottest months of the year approaching fast, officials say that public swimming pools may not be the safest place to beat the heat. Every year officials close down thousands of pools, hot tubs and water parks as a result of health and safety violations, according to CBS.
Report claims swimming pools can make you sick
Among these violations are problems with contamination that can actually make you sick, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today. The report does not aim to discourage people from participating in the healthy exercise provided by swimming, but instead tries to make people aware of health issues and encourage them to contribute to pool safety.
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No one should get sick or hurt when visiting a public pool, hot tub, or water playground,” Dr. Beth Bell, director of CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “That’s why public health and aquatics professionals work together to improve the operation and maintenance of these public places so people will be healthy and safe when they swim.”
In 2013 the CDC compiled data from Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas, the five states that boast the highest number of public pools and hot tubs. More than 84,000 routine inspections of almost 50,000 public facilities were reviewed as part of the report.
Kiddie pools a particular hazard
Nearly 80% of all inspections showed at least 1 violation. 1 in 8 inspections led to the immediate closure of the facility. The worst offenders were kiddie pools, with 20% being shut down.
CDC inspectors report that the highest proportion of violations were linked to improper pH levels (needed to kill germs), lack of safety equipment and low levels of disinfectant in the water. The report says that contamination is most likely to occur due to people with diarrhea going swimming, or fecal matter rinsing off children and entering the water. The use of swim diapers does not stop feces, urine or pathogens entering the water.
To help prevent contamination it is advised that you do not enter the pool if you are suffering from diarrhea. Parents should make sure their children have not soiled their diapers before letting them enter the pool.
Test public facilities before entering the water
Pool users can buy test strips at pool-supply stores to carry out their own checks before entering the water. The strips will tell you if the pH and free chlorine or bromine concentrations are sufficient.
According to the CDC, free chlorine concentration should be at least 1 ppm in pools and at least 3 ppm in hot tubs/spas. There should also be a free bromine concentration of at least 3 ppm in pools and at least 4 ppm in hot tubs/spas. pH levels should be between 7.2-7.8.
Before swimming pool users should make sure that drain covers are secured, and check that a lifeguard is working. Report any problems that you find
If you find any problems, avoid getting into the water and tell someone in charge so the problems can be fixed.
“Environmental health practitioners, or public health inspectors, play a very important role in protecting public health. However, almost one third of local health departments do not regulate, inspect, or license public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds,” said Dr. Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program. “We should all check for inspection results online or on site before using public pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds and do our own inspection before getting into the water.”