Thoughts from a broken mind
by: Donna Earnest Pravel
A July 9, 2012 news article published in the New York Daily News stated that a public swimming pool in Brooklyn had to be shut down when it became contaminated with fecal material. Park officials believed the incident was caused by a dirty diaper.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes a journal called Emerging Infectious Diseases. In the June 2008 issue, the CDC reported a study examining the safety of public swimming pool water in over 160 recreational water facilities. The purpose of the study was to determine how common two parasites occur in public swimming pools.
Researchers in the CDC study took random samples from 160 public swimming pools around Atlanta, Georgia. Two microbial parasites, Cryptosporidium and Giardia, were present in one out of twelve swimming pools. These parasites are found in human feces. They are spread when someone swallows swimming pool water. They are also spread if a person does not wash his or her hands after handling a dirty diaper or eats contaminated food.
The most common symptom of these two parasites is diarrhea. Children and pregnant women can become violently ill from an infestation of Cryptosporidium or Giardia. People with compromised immune systems, such as people with AIDS and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, are at risk of dying if infested with Cryptosporidium, according to the CDC.
“Baby pools” and smaller, less- frequently attended pools were found to contain the highest presence of these microbial parasites.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following tips to reduce the risk of becoming ill from swimming in a public swimming pool:
- Do not go swimming if you have diarrhea
- Do not allow your children to go swimming if they have diarrhea
- Make sure your children make a trip to the bathroom before swimming in a public pool
- Do not swallow or drink swimming pool water
- Teach children not to swallow or drink swimming pool water
- Change baby diapers in designated changing areas in restrooms, not at poolside
- Insist on public recreational water facilities that are properly maintained
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a fact sheet on operating public swimming pools safely. The May 2012 document, titled “Operating Public Swimming Pools,” states that poorly maintained public, recreational water facilities can spread germs that cause diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and skin diseases.
Public swimming pool and water park patrons should look for facilities that do the following:
- Operate under a state or local authority
- Keep trained pool operators on staff during peak visitor hours
- Test the water for impurities at least twice a day
- Keep showers, changing areas, and bathrooms clean
- Enforce load limits- no overcrowded pools
- Close the pool for maintenance weekly
- Educate swimmers about recreational water illnesses (RWIs)
Sources for this article include:
New York Daily News.com, “‘Caddyshack’ moment at Brooklyn’s McCarren Park pool: Lifeguard clears swimmers out of the water when a brown object is seen bobbing on the surface,” by Alison Gendar and Bill Hutchinson
Centers for Disease Control.gov, “Operating Public Swimming Pools”
Centers for Disease Control.gov, “Avoiding Germs in Swimming Pools”
Centers for Disease Control.gov, “Twelve (12) Steps for Prevention of Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) (for Pool and Aquatics Staff)”
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