Summertime is about sun, sand and swimming. However, it's all fun and games until someone gets sick or hurt when visiting a public swimming pool, spa or water park.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 80 percent of the public water venues they inspected had at least one violation. One in eight of the inspections resulted in immediate closure; and 1 in 5 "kiddie" pools were closed immediately due to health and safety violations. Most violations were related to improper chemical concentration and a lack of safety equipment.
"While drowning is always a concern around pools, we must also remain diligent about the cleanliness of public pools," says Dr. Raymond Chinn, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital. "Low concentration of pool chemicals can lead to sickness, while high levels can cause skin and eye irritation."
Although the proper levels of pool chemicals kill most germs, there are some germs that are resistant to the chemicals. If you have had recent surgery, are a transplant recipient, are pregnant or a have a weakened immune system, Dr. Chinn suggests talking to your doctor before visiting public water venues.
San Diego is not immune to these problems. County records have shown that more than 150 pools and spas inspected during 2015 were closed because of health and safety violations. Violations included excrement in the water, poor cleanliness, hazardous chemical levels, broken enclosures and missing or expired health permits.
That number could be higher, as not all public pools were accessible to inspectors, as required by law, and so they went uninspected. As a result, the CDC recommends you check reports before you go for a dip and do an inspection of your own.
The CDC offers the following checklist that swimmers and the parents of little waders can complete before a visit to a public pool, spa or water park:
- Using a test strip purchased at a superstore or pool supply store, determine whether the pH and free chlorine or bromine concentration are correct: o Free chlorine concentration of at least 1 ppm in pools and at least 3 ppm in spas o Free bromine concentration of at least 3 ppm in pools and at least 4 ppm in spas o pH of 7.2-7.8
- Check that all drain covers are secured and in good repair
- Confirm that a lifeguard is on duty and safety equipment such as a rescue ring with rope or pole is available
To maintain personal health and a safe environment for others, Dr. Chinn recommends:
- Not swallowing the water
- Ensuring that ears (especially children) are dried after water contact to prevent ear infections
- Not using public swimming pools if you have diarrhea or feel ill
- Taking a short shower before entering and after using the water facilities
- Making sure that your children do not defecate or urinate in the water