Water Education - Water and Health

Public Health Hazards of Public Swimming Pools

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Imagine the summertime is here...the sky is blue and it's a perfect day to head to the local pool for an afternoon of sun and fun in the water. Besides the obvious dangers associated with swimming, there is a growing frequency in the safety and management of the pool water you swim in. Want to learn more? Have a quick look below...

Public Pool Hazards

A variety of microorganisms can be found in swimming pools and similar recreational water environments, which may be introduced in a number of ways. In many cases, the risk of illness or infection has been linked to faecal contamination of the water. The faecal contamination may be due to feces released by bathers or contaminated source water or, in outdoor pools, may be the result of direct animal contamination (e.g. from birds and rodents). Faecal matter is introduced into the water when a person has an accidental fecal release - AFR (through the release of formed stool or diarrhea into the water) or residual fecal material on swimmers' bodies is washed into the pool (CDC, 2001).

Many of the outbreaks related to swimming pools would have been prevented or reduced if the pool had been well managed. Non-fecal human shedding (e.g. from vomit, mucus, saliva, or skin) in the swimming pool or similar recreational water environments is a potential source of pathogenic organisms. Infected users can directly contaminate pool or hot tub waters and the surfaces of objects or materials at a facility with pathogens (notably viruses or fungi), which may lead to skin infections in other patrons who come in contact with the contaminated water or surfaces.

'Opportunistic pathogens' (notably bacteria) can also be shed from users and transmitted via surfaces and contaminated water. Some bacteria, most notably non-faecally-derived bacteria may accumulate in biofilms and present an infection hazard.

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