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,
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.
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
"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