Think Twice Before Getting Into the Public Pool


Protect Loved Ones
from Nasty Public Swimming Pools

Dirty Water WARNING: Disturbing content.

On a sweltering hot day, nothing feels better than jumping into a nice cool pool. And for fitness, nothing beats swimming laps for a full body workout without putting strain on your joints. Or perhaps it’s your kids or grandkids whose summer recreation includes a dip in a public swimming pool, or a private membership-based pool.

But for you and your family’s health, you may want to rethink jumping into a pool; if you don’t want to spend the next week sick. Studies show that poop – yes poop – and other bacteria are swimming in the pool with you. You won’t see it floating around but it’s there, making people sick!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, after taking 161 water samples from metro-Atlanta public pools in the summer of 2012, 58% contained E. coli bacteria, even though these pools contained chlorine. Chlorine kills bacteria in the water, but slowly. Bacteria can survive for hours, even days, even in a properly maintained pool.

It’s not just swimming pools to be on the lookout for but also wading pools, water parks, misters, public fountains, whirlpools and hot tubs. Germs can enter your body by inhalation, swallowing or merely having contact with your skin.

A study by the Water and Health Council reported that seven in ten people don’t shower as recommended before entering the pool. One in five people urinate in the pool. That fact alone leaves us feeling quite uneasy about entering these popular summer oases at all.

So what are the risks…

Chemicals in the water or their evaporation can also cause recreational water illnesses.

  • Diarrhea is the most common illness, usually caused by Cryptosporidium (Crypto). Crypto can stay alive in pools for days because it’s tolerant to chlorine and is a leading cause of diarrhea and prolonged diarrhea, lasting two to three weeks.
  • Norwalk Virus can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Naegleriasis and Acanthamoebiases infect the eyes and skin.
  • Pseudomonas causes swimmer’s ear and skin rashes.

During a 2010 study, one in eight public pools was closed after inspection found serious code violations. The most common violators were kiddie pools, wading pools and water play areas. Swimming pool codes aren’t federally regulated, but are developed and enforced by state and local public health agencies.

Just because a pool has a strong chlorine smell don’t assume it’s clean – in some cases it means just the opposite – it’s extremely dirty! Pools should be monitored frequently and in some places are tested hourly, especially when the pool is full.

What can we do to be safe…

  • If you’re sick don’t go to the pool. Germs can spread quickly, especially if you’ve had diarrhea. No swimming for 14 days.
  • Check to find out how often the pool is monitored for chemical levels.
  • Wash with soap and water thoroughly before going swimming and always take a shower before entering the pool.
  • Examine the pool and nearby areas. They should be clean and you should be able to see the bottom of the pool.
  • Pool test strips are available at many stores, so you can test the pool before entering.
  • Complain to management about anyone changing diapers by the pool. Always change in the bathroom or diaper changing areas. Make sure you wash your hands and your child’s hands before heading back to the pool.
  • Check and change swimming diapers often.
  • Take your children to the washroom every hour. Don’t wait until they have to go; it may be too late.
  • After using the washroom, wash your hands with soap and water and have another shower before entering the pool.
  • Don’t swallow water, or even put water in your mouth while playing games such as blowing bubbles.
  • If you hear someone has urinated or pooped in the pool get out immediately!
  • Wash off chairs and tables with disinfectant wipes before using them.
  • Don’t wear contact lens while in the pool or hot tub.
  • If any part of the pool, water play areas or surrounding areas are dirty; dirt, germs and bacteria are being carried into the pool.
  • Talk to management before going to the pool, to make sure lifeguards and staff are watching everyone, to confirm showers are taken before entering the pool.
  • Go to the pool first thing in the morning (or when it first opens for the day), and leave before crowds arrive. This way, water has been circulating through filters for several hours and pool chemicals have had time to do their job.
  • Don’t feel bashful about voicing your concerns or even providing this entire list to management. Remind them that you’re not only a taxpayer (or a member if it’s a private pool), but a civic minded person concerned about everyone’s health.

Summer is a time to enjoy. On hot sunny days, kids look forward to swimming and playing in the local pool. Take precautions, so you and your family can enjoy a healthy summer and all it has to offer!