Monday, July 14, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the pool . . .

(Warning: possible EEEEWWWW alert!)

I remember seeing signs like this on my old neighborhood's prefab, above-ground, backyard swimming pools (yet another item lost to the sameness of exurbia and HOAs):

Well, after seeing the following article in Ladycub's Nursing Spectrum magazine, I might hesitate a bit for a similar, but worse reason:

The Germy Truth About Public Swimming Pools

Seems that the big problem with pools isn't #1, as the signs imply, but #2:

Many people assume that a well-maintained swimming pool is germ-free, that chlorinated water is just as clean as drinking water, and that chlorine kills all germs instantly. But this is not true. Even the best-maintained pools with adequate chlorine levels (1 ppm to 3 ppm free available chlorine) can transmit waterborne diseases.

Cryptosporidium and Giardia are fecally transmitted protozoan parasites that have been linked to outbreaks of GI illnesses from swimming pools and water parks. These common intestinal parasites can withstand chlorine disinfection for a considerable period of time. For example, Cryptosporidium excreted in the feces of infected humans can survive and remain infective for nearly 11 days, and Giardia can survive at least 30 to 60 minutes.

Now here's the REALLY shocking part from the article, which I had no idea was the case. Emphasis mine:
With Cryptosporidium, a single fecal accident can contaminate an entire pool, and swallowing a few mouthfuls of water can result in an infection. With Giardia, swallowing as few as 10 cysts of Giardia (the infectious form) can cause an infection. Fecal accidents are not uncommon in pools. Each day, up to 2 to 3 pounds of feces [!] can be found in the water of an average-sized public pool from fecal accidents and from swimmers’ bodies from improper cleansing after bowel movements.
How would you have liked to be the one collecting the, um, evidence to support that research? Either that, or now we know the real reason why kids don't want to be lifeguards anymore. Two to three pounds!

No need to thank me for this public service. Now, anyone for some Sharks and Minnows?

UPDATE: The lovely and gracious Ladycub reminded me that I had quite a few problems with diarrhea a few years back. It's a bit of a longshot, but could the fact that I was swimming regularly at an overcrowded YMCA pool have had something to do with it? I think I've been in a swimming pool twice in the last two years.


Julia said...

I was a guard/swim teacher for 3 years at a big, busy day camp.

EVERYTHING went into those pools: Dead possums fallin' out of trees; all the pee the 2-5 year olds (and likely many others) could provide - you should have seen the "little" pool after the junior campers left- it was practically yellow; Number 2 on days when we had something particularly greasy for lunch (EEEEEW); and occasionally, vomit.

Since this camp was so big and busy, we didn't usually have the choice to shut down one of our pools for over an hour. This meant fishing out the offending detritus, shocking the pool with chlorine, and, you guessed it, hopping right back in the pool.

As you can imagine, the whole waterfront staff got sick repeatedly. I picked up at least 3 sinus infections and 4 ear infections. YEUCHH.

Tummy said...

Holy cow, I hope Boo doesn't read this!

Cygnus said...

Julia, I remember when my younger brother didn't shower once the entire week he was at summer camp in southern Maryland. He swam in the pool every day. But considering I heard from counselors about the pee content of the pool, he didn't help matters much . . . if any.

(I'd say that your contact with and illnesses from the water would explain a few things, but I'm too pooped (pardon the expression) to get *whack*ed.)

Cygnus said...

I could be wrong, Tummy, but I doubt that Boo has ever been over here.

Mom2BJM(Amy) said...

ALl of the Phoenix pools were recently closed for this very reason- and the radio makes sure everyone knows what causes it! *grin*
My kids would die if they weren't able to go to the pool several times a week. Me? I'll get in, but I don't usually put my head under water.. Am I avoiding something?

Silvergirl said...

Thanks for not telling me this during lunch on Saturday.

I'm not sharing this with DD. She's phobic enough about germs already.

I've only been swimming once this summer, and it was in a friend's private pool, but she's had a lot of teens over to her house to swim there also. I guess it might be cleaner than a public pool.