The Public Swimming Pool: A Summer Respite or Communal Bathtub?

New Survey Finds Majority of American Adults Skip the Shower before Getting in the Pool, Contributing to an Unhealthy Swimming Experience

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WASHINGTON, May 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As Memorial Day approaches heralding the summer pool season, a new survey on swimmer hygiene conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council (WQHC) finds that although nearly all Americans (93 percent) say they would never re-use someone else’s bath water, almost seven in 10 (68 percent) admit they do not always shower before getting in the pool.  Failing to shower before swimming adds contaminants to the pool that can lead to unhealthy swimming conditions.

“Swimming is not a substitute for bathing.  Too many people unknowingly treat the pool as a communal bathtub,” said Dr. Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality & Health Council. “It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important to shower before you jump in the pool to help keep swimming healthy for everyone in the pool.”

“The pre-swim shower removes a lot of the sweat, cosmetics and urine that can mix with chlorine to create irritants in pool water,” said Michele Hlavsa, Chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Healthy Swimming Program. “These irritants, not the chlorine itself, cause red eyes when we swim and the strong chemical smell of some pools.”

The survey(1) found that one in five respondents admit to peeing in the pool, echoing the results from a WQHC survey conducted three years ago.  According to Dr. Wiant, “No matter how easy it is to pee anonymously in the pool, swimmers should avoid doing so and take their children on frequent bathroom breaks.  Pool operators should also monitor and maintain proper pool water chemistry, especially pH and chlorine levels, which CDC calls ‘the first defense against germs that can make swimmers sick.'”

The WQHC is again making available this year free pool test strips so swimmers can check pH and chlorine levels using a simple, color-coded test strip.  Proper chlorine levels and pH help keep pools healthy by destroying waterborne germs that can cause diarrhea, swimmer’s ear, and skin infections.

Free test strips can be requested and results uploaded by visiting https://www.healthypools.org/freeteststrips. Last summer, WQHC mailed over 32,000 free pool test strips to swimmers who requested them on the Healthy Pools website.  Data submitted by swimmers across the nation last summer showed that 54 percent of pools tested had unacceptable chlorine levels and 47 percent had inappropriate pH levels.

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