It is a fact that swimming facilities are closely related to outbreaks of diseases and other health ailments. Through a rigorous study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 8 out of every 10 inspections on swimming pools across the country displayed violations of health safety standards in one way or another.

The pools showed at least one violation, which could include the pool’s pH level. The study also shed light on its concentration of disinfectants or complying with maintenance procedures. The study was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over 50 elements found in aquatic facilities that proved to be hazardous for human health were listed by the CDC.

Because failure to properly maintain aquatic facility sanitation can allow spread of waterborne diseases or cause injuries
Because failure to properly maintain aquatic facility sanitation can allow spread of waterborne diseases or cause injuries. Image Credit: Patch

Analyzing America’s pools

The states with the highest rate of aquatic facilities were selected and include Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. These states contain at least 4 out of every 10 pools and aquatic parks across the United States. Although states like New York and Florida do have water facility codes, the remaining states’ regulations vary depending on the county.

The study comes from the fact that pools and aquatic facilities are dangerous. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children younger than 4-years-olds. And thousands of kids each year have to be taken to emergencies due to a health implication that occurred in the proximity of a public pool. Although swimming has a great deal of benefits for the body as it allows for relaxation, exercise and recreation, there is danger involved in the equation as well. People could face illness and injury at aquatic facilities. The CDC has classified these threats as drownings, aquatic facility-associated outbreaks and pool chemical-associated health events.

Diseases can easily spread through water. There is memory of the many outbreaks of ‘hot tub folliculitis’ that occurred amid spas and hot tubs reached their peak of popularity in the 1980’s. Although the corresponding warnings were issued, aquatic facilities kept arising in the form of water parks, exposing children to a broader range of diseases. Chlorine-related infections also saw a rise, as chlorine is able to react with urine and sweat, thus producing different strains of chloramine, which can cause skin infections.

Besides publishing the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), a series of guidelines to keep aquatic facilities secure, the CDC ordered the inspection of 48,632 pools throughout the United States. Pools should be routinely inspected at least three times a year, but inspections can occur due to complaints or elements that were addressed on previous inspections that need further monitoring.

The gross balance of clean and dirty public pools

78.5 percent of the inspections suggested that the inspected pool must be closed, while a 12.3 percent of the inspections led the pool to be instantly closed. Among the violations, there were pools lacking safety equipment, sporting risk of infection, chemical unbalances and many other violations to the MAHC.

Although there are no studies regarding the actual usefulness of the norms contained on the MAHC, each of the guidelines was carefully drafted by experts of the CDC in order to prevent illnesses and injuries related to aquatic facilities. The CDC recommends epidemiologists and physicians to work in unison to see which measures contribute to a healthier swimming environment. As the incidence of pool-related health events are a real concern among U.S. civilians.

Pool owners need to comply with the new pool safety requirements by December 1,
Pool owners need to comply with the new pool safety requirements by December 1, according to the CDC. Image Credit: HTH Pools

Lackluster reaction

The most effective method of preventing swimmers becoming infected while swimming is halogenation, where a chemical identified as an halogen (such as chlorine) is set to react with another material (in this case, water). The CDC suggests swimmers to buy test strips in order to make sure the pH level of the water is right for them and their families. Considering that a significant unbalance in chemicals is able to cause infections rather than helping kill bacteria, it’s worth a shot.

The ideal pH of a pool should be between 7.2 and 7.8. It was also advised for swimmers to never swim in a public pool if there is suspicion of infection or sickness. It is useful to watch for the structure of the pool, as the water should not be murky. And the inner walls should not be sticky nor mossy, but smooth and clean.

CDC director Beth Bell commented, “No one should get sick or hurt when visiting a public pool, hot tub, or water playground. 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.”

The existence of guidelines is nothing new, as the CDC has been following a surveillance system based on water-related incidents and diseases. But it is up to this date that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a binding statement. The CDC’s statement warns the public regarding the many aquatic facilities that violate standard safety guidelines.

Obeying the MAHC is voluntary for states and municipalities in order to reduce the risk of illness for their citizens. Because there is no binding data referring to the MAHC’s effectiveness, the federal government is still to force the adoption of the guidelines on a nationwide basis. But each state has its own jurisdiction and the guidelines will have to be modified to fit the needs of each state. Something that is yet to occur as there is no true concern coming from authorities regarding this topic.

Source: CDC