Summer’s right around the corner, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are here to remind you that there’s nothing like a dip in a public pool — a place where you might encounter tiny bits of fecal matter, parasites like Cryptosporidium and volatile chemicals that can irritate your eyes or respiratory tract.
The CDC’s report found that 79% of routine inspections of public pools revealed health safety violations. In 12% of inspections, the problems were so serious that, Karen Kaplan says, the pool had to be shut down immediately:
These disheartening statistics are based on 84,187 routine inspections of 48,632 public pools and other “aquatic venues” in Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. Researchers focused on these five states because they are home to 40% of the nation’s estimated 309,000 public water play facilities.
The CDC estimates there are over 300,000 indoor and outdoor public aquatic venues in the United States, used by an ever-growing number of children:
In 2009, swimming was the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States and the most popular among children aged 7–17 years; an estimated 50,226,000 persons aged ≥7 years swam at least six times in 2009, translating to at least 301,356,000 swimming instances…
The most common violations identified included problems with the water’s pH level (15%), safety equipment (12%), and concentration of disinfectants (12%). Many pools violated more than one safety rule. Kaplan relays the CDC’s advice for parents:
So what’s a swimmer to do? The CDC’s advice is to visit a pool supply or hardware store and stock up on test strips that can measure the pH and disinfectants in the water. A healthy pool has a pH between 7.2 and 7.8. The concentration of chlorine should be at least 1 part per million in regular pool water and at least 3 ppm in a hot tub. For bromine, the concentration in pool water should be at least 3 ppm, and at least 4 ppm in a hot tub.
At some point in their lives kids will grow out of swim diapers and control the urge to pee in the pool. Until they do, well…