The CDC has announced nearly 80 percent of public swimming pools in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas failed health inspections. In an effort to prevent illness, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their findings and offered tips for healthy swimming.
As discussed in the press release, the CDC reviewed the results from 84,187 inspections conducted at public swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, and similar facilities.
According to the report, 15 percent of the violations were due to unsuitable pH levels, 13 percent were related to safety equipment, and 12 percent were due to improper disinfectant concentration.
The CDC reported one in eight public swimming facilities were closed immediately following their inspection due to “serious health and safety violations.” A majority of those facilities were classified as “kiddie/wading pools.”
CDC Healthy Swimming Program chief Michele Hlavsa said the results are helpful in identifying dangerous public swimming pools. However, swimmers need to be vigilant in choosing a clean and safe public swimming facility.
“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.”
In addition to making sure drains are not obstructed and that drain covers are “in good repair,” swimmers are encouraged to use pool test strips, which are available at most hardware and pool supply stores, to verify water quality before entering a public pool.
The CDC suggests “free chlorine concentration of at least 1 ppm in pools and at least 3 ppm in hot tubs/spas, free bromine concentration of at least 3 ppm in pools and at least 4 ppm in hot tubs/spas, and pH of 7.2–7.8.”
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests making sure safety equipment is visible at the facility and at least one lifeguard is on duty.
People who use public swimming pools and aquatic facilities are also at risk of developing Naegleria fowleri infection, which is commonly referred to as brain-eating ameba.
Although it is rare, Naegleria fowleri flourishes in warm water. It is most likely to be found in freshwater. However, it has been detected in at least one swimming facility that was inadequately chlorinated.
CBS News reports a 12-year-old Arkansas girl was infected with the brain-eating ameba after visiting the Willow Springs Water Park in Little Rock. Although she survived the infection, it can be fatal in some patients.
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Unlike other common parasites, Naegleria fowleri cannot enter the body unless contaminated water is forced into the nose. Therefore, the best prevention is to plug one’s nose when diving or to avoid diving altogether.
Although the recent findings focus on public swimming pools and aquatic facilities, the CDC also offers tips for residential pool and hot tub owners.
Pools and hot tubs must contain recommended levels of chlorine, which kills germs, and pH, which can affect the effectiveness of chlorine treatment, to provide a healthy environment for bathing and swimming. Test kits and supplies are readily available at swimming supply stores and many hardware stores.
It is also important to thoroughly clean and disinfect a pool or hot tub that becomes contaminated with feces. In addition to closing the pool to all swimmers, homeowners are encouraged to remove any visible signs of the feces and increase chlorine concentration to two parts per million. They are also encouraged to maintain pH levels of 7.5 or less for at least 30 minutes.
Although some pets enjoy swimming, homeowners are discouraged from allowing them to swim in a family pool, as they could contaminate the water.
Public swimming pools offer residents an affordable way to cool off during the hot summer months. Although public swimming facilities are a great place for individuals and families to spend the day, they should be used with caution.
[Image via Peter Jeffreys/Shutterstock]