Make a Splash for Public Health This Summer

WASHINGTON -- For many Americans, summertime fun

begins and ends in the nearest swimming pools. According to U.S. Census data,

swimming ranks as the second most popular exercise activity in the country.

Sometimes, however, swimmers are not taking

their dip in properly treated water, and the result can make for

some very unhealthy times. A national partnership of public health, water

quality and consumer advocacy organizations would like to see that change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National

Consumers League (NCL), the Water Quality and Health Council (WQHC), the

Chlorine Chemistry Council (CCC) and the National Spa & Pool Institute (NSPI)

have joined together to alert and educate the public on the need to stay

personally involved in monitoring and maintaining healthy pools this summer.

Through the Healthy Pools campaign, the partnership aims to correct general

misconceptions about the public health needs of swimming pools, offering tips

on how to recognize risky swimming facilities and how to promote cleaner,

healthier pools.

What's at stake, according to Michigan State University

microbiologist Dr. Joan Rose, is your personal health and the health of your

family. "Improperly treated public swimming pools can be the source of a

variety of infections and illnesses associated with waterborne germs such as

Giardia, E. coli, Shigella and Cryptosporidium," said Rose. An avid swimmer,

Rose comments, "While swimming is one of the healthiest activities you can do,

exposure to these germs can present uncomfortable results including diarrhea,

respiratory illness, ear or nose infections and skin outbreaks."

According to CDC epidemiologist Dr. Michael Beach, the most recent news on

swimming pool health has not been reassuring. At the launch of the Healthy

Pools program at Washington, DC's National Press Club, Beach cited the most

recent CDC research showing that 54 percent of all swimming pools monitored in the

study were found to be in violation of at least one public health code. Eight

percent of those inspections resulted in immediate pool closures.

"It's

really a case of basic public health practices relaxing to the point of

becoming a problem. We've observed that over the past two decades the number

of reported outbreaks of diarrheal illness associated with swimming increased

ten-fold," reports Beach. "This sends a strong message that we need to do a

better job of maintaining the nation's pools."

As promoted on the partnership Web site, http://www.healthypools.org, the

positive message is that much of the illness associated with swimming pools is

completely preventable. Proper chlorination to kill waterborne germs, good

sanitation practices, and suitable personal hygiene in and around the swimming

area can make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy swimming

experience. The Healthy Pools Web site offers a simple rule of thumb that NCL

president Linda Golodner says makes it easy for consumers to check if they are

swimming in a healthy pool.

"Our 'Sense'-able Swimming guide encourages

children and adults alike to use their senses -- sight, touch, smell, sound,

and common sense, too -- to help protect themselves and each other from

swimming pool-related illness."

Recognizing that there can be health issues associated with swimming

pools, though, remains a challenge to making improvements. Golodner points to

a recent NCL public survey demonstrating that nearly sixty percent of those

polled believe it is unlikely that someone could get sick from swimming in a

swimming pool.

"First and foremost, as consumers, we need to be aware that a

problem can exist," she says. "Then we need to exercise our good judgment,

ask questions and expect answers from those who can improve the quality of

those facilities that don't measure up."

"A healthy pool is not a luxury; it's a necessity," says Golodner.

The Healthy Pools partnership encourages swimmers to follow the CDC's

guidelines for staying healthy and active this summer:

* Don't swallow pool water

* Practice good hygiene

* Stay out of the pool if you have diarrhea.

According to Beach, "It's crucial that public health professionals, pool operators and the general swimming public work in partnership to increase everyone's chances for healthy swimming experiences."

Source: Water Quality and Health Council

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