With temperatures on the rise, it wont be long before families start heading to the nearest public pool to cool down; however, some public pools may pose a serious health hazard.
Each year, thousands of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds are forced to close due to serious health and safety violations, including contamination problems that could make people sick, according to a recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Swimming is one of the best exercises you can participate in and it’s a lot of fun. Health officials say they don’t want to discourage people from swimming, but that individuals should be aware of certain issues with public pools and know what steps they can take to make sure their families are safe.
"No one should get sick or hurt when visiting a public pool, hot tub, or water playground," Dr. Beth Bell, director of CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. "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."
For the report, the CDC collected data in the five states with the most public pools and hot tubs -- Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas in 2013. They reviewed over 84,000 routine inspections of nearly 50,000 public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds.
The results showed that almost 80 percent of all inspections identified at least one violation, with 1 in 8 inspections resulting in immediate closure because of serious health and safety problems.
The highest proportion of closures were in "kiddie" or wading pools, with 1 in 5 needing to be closed down.
The most common violations were improper pH levels, lack of safety equipment and inadequate disinfectant concentration. The correct pH level is critical for killing germs.
Pools contaminated with fecal matter pose a direct threat to health. This usually occurs when people suffering from diarrhea go in to a pool or when fecal matter washes off of children or leaks from dirty diapers.
Officials suggest that parents check their children’s diapers and take them for regular bathroom breaks. Swim diapers do not prevent feces, urine, or infectious pathogens from contaminating the water, the authors note.
To check the pH level of any pool you enter, you can use a pool water test strip.
The CDC recommends the following levels:
· 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.
· pH of 7.2-7.8.
Another safety hazard is improper drain covers. Make sure that the drain cover appears secure and is not in need of repair.
While some public pools provide lifeguards, not all do. Check to see if your neighborhood pool has a lifeguard trained in CPR. Even if your pool does provide a lifeguard, keep your eyes on your children at all times. The more people watching out for your child, the better.
If you find any problems, avoid getting into the water and tell someone in charge so the problems can be fixed.
"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," said Dr. Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC's Healthy Swimming Program. "We should all check for inspection results online or on site before using public pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds and do our own inspection before getting into the water"
Checking the pool you swim in for contamination and other safety issues is good advice for anyone using a pool, whether it’s public or private. Pool test strips are available online or at superstores, such as Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot.
Story source: Ashley Welch, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/alarming-number-of-public-pools-cited-for-health-violations-cdc/