Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Just when you thought it was safe to take a dip in your local watering hole this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a study which found that many swimmers leave behind a little more than a good time in the pool.
According to the health agency’s data, more than half of the pools they tested contained fecal matter left behind by swimmers. More specifically, the study found that 58 percent of pools contain genetic material and bacteria like E. coli which originated in human guts. The CDC is now urging all public pool swimmers to take extra precaution before taking their next dip.
Though E.coli was found in a frightening amount of swimming pools, they did not find any evidence of E. coli O157:H7, a particularly dangerous strain of the bacteria which can cause illness.
Fecal matter and E. coli weren´t the only dangerous pieces of matter found in these local pools. Other bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, were found in 59 percent of public pools sampled. This bacterium has been found to cause skin rashes and ear infections, though it can also find its way into public pools by way of natural contamination.
Two other fecal bacteria, cryptosporidium and Giardia, were also found in the pools, though at a much lower percentage. Only two percent of the pools sampled carried these germs which are most often spread through diarrhea or other forms of fecal matter. As a silver lining to this study, the CDC claims that though these germs were found in public pools, they did not check if these bacteria were alive. In other words, these bacteria may or may not cause infections when they come in contact with swimmers.
Local and Neighborhood public pools may be dirty, but water parks and other recreational facilities with pools are another story.
Unfortunately, the CDC did not investigate these pools or residential pools, but did urge anyone who may be inclined to take a dip this summer to watch out for themselves and their neighbors.
As the CDC notes, it is unlikely that the hygiene practiced at public pools differs from any other pool.
“Swimming is an excellent way to get the physical activity needed to stay healthy,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC´s Healthy Swimming Program in the accompanying statement.
“However, pool users should be aware of how to prevent infections while swimming. Remember, chlorine and other disinfectants don´t kill germs instantly. That´s why it´s important for swimmers to protect themselves by not swallowing the water they swim in and to protect others by keeping feces and germs out of the pool by taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea,” she explained
The CDC released this report just ahead of Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week (RWII) which begins next week.
In order to prevent recreational water illnesses, the CDC recommends the following steps:
Keep feces of all kinds out of the water. This means refraining from swimming if you have diarrhea or if you have just used the bathroom or changed a dirty diaper. Additionally, the CDC asks that all public pool swimmers shower with soap before diving in and taking frequent bathroom breaks, followed by thorough hand washing, every 60 minutes.
Additionally the CDC urges the public to be aware of the chlorine level in public pools, noting that many hardware and retail stores sell chlorine test strips. Finally, parents are asked to check diapers every 30 minutes and take their children on bathroom breaks every 30 to 60 minutes.