Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 23rd 2013 Contents B52
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, May 23, 2013
Chlorine is supposed to take care of most of the
microbes floating around in pools, but human waste,
it seems, is stubbornly resistant to being sanitized.
That s the conclusion of a group of researchers from
the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who collected
water samples from 161 filters in public and private
swimming pools, as well as water parks in Atlanta
What they found trapped in those filters was enough
to make swimmers think twice before logging their
laps. More than half of the samples were contaminated
with E coli, which the investigators say comes from
one primary source---swimmers pooping in the pool.
The study, published in the latest Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report, specifically looked at pools
in Atlanta, but the researchers say such contamination
is likely a widespread problem in US pools, thanks to
swimmers not washing themselves off before taking
According to the scientists, each of us carries about
0.14 grams of faecal material into the pool---and that
doesn t include accidents or cases of diarrhoea.
Among municipal pools, the genetic testing for
pathogens detected E coli in 70 per cent of the filters,
while 66 per cent of the water parks contained the
bacteria and 49 per cent of pools in private clubs
showed evidence of the contamination.
"These findings indicate the need for swimmers to
help prevent introduction of pathogens, eg, taking a
pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with
diarrhoea, (for) aquatics staff to maintain disinfectant
level and pH according to public health standards to
inactivate pathogens, and state and local environmental
health specialists to enforce such standards," the
authors write in their report.
When a pool is properly chlorinated, however, bac-
teria like E coli should be killed off, since proper pH
levels typically take care of the issue. According to
the CDC, it takes less than a minute for E coli to be
inactivated if chlorine levels are adequate, about 16
minutes to control Hepatitis A virus, about 45 minutes
to kill off the Giardia parasite and over ten days for
a Crypto parasite.
But just one diarrhoea accident can cause an infection
for anyone who gets a mouth full of pool water. For-
tunately, the testing did not reveal strains of E coli
0157, a particularly virulent form of the bacteria that
was responsible for several outbreaks, and deaths,
from serious foodborne illnesses.
According to NPR, because the researchers only
analysed the samples for genetic signatures of different
pathogens, they couldn t determine whether the bugs
were alive, and potentially reproducing in the water,
but there were no pool-related diseases reported in
Atlanta during the summer the samples were gath-
Thomas Lachocki, the CEO of the National Swim-
ming Pool Foundation, says that in order to be properly
chlorinated, pools should contain one to four parts
per million of chlorine and pH levels should be within
"You can go to any mass market store and go into
the pool chemical aisle and buy test stripes. All of
these have chlorine and pH tests. In five seconds, you
can do a quick analysis yourself and have an idea of
what the various levels are," he says.
But if you don t have the time to do your own
testing, look for clear water. "You should always be
able to see the bottom of the pool clearly. Usually if
the water is cloudy, something with the filter or chem-
icals isn t right," says Lachocki. "Clear water doesn t
mean everything is alright, but cloudy water is an
absolute positive sign that something is not right."
Here are some additional recommendations from
the CDC for ensuring a bug-free dip:
Don t swim when you have diarrhoea.
Shower with soap before you start swimming.
Take a shower to rinse off before you get back into
Pools polluted with poop
Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing
Try not to swallow the pool water.
Take younger children on bathroom breaks every
half-hour to hour or check diapers frequently.
Change diapers in the bathroom or diaper-changing
area and not where pathogens can get into the
There may be no way to completely sanitize a pool,
but the latest analysis of what could be lurking in the
water should motivate lifeguards and pool managers
to be more vigilant about testing those waters. People
should outnumber the pathogens in any pool.
Among municipal pools, the genetic testing for pathogens detected E coli in 70
per cent of the filters, while 66 per cent of the water parks contained the
bacteria and 49 per cent of pools in private clubs showed evidence of the
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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