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Poop in the Pool: CDC Study Reveals High Levels of Contamination in Public Pools

May 16, 2013 06:26 PM EDT
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Public pools are great for swimming, pool side conversation with the neighbors and, based on a news release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finding E. coli and other types of germs.

The agency collected samples of water from pool filters from public pools and tested them for genetic material for several microbes. It did not include samples from water parks, residential pools or other types of recreational water.

In all, researchers detected E. coli in 58 percent of the pool filters, a clear indication of fecal contamination.

Possibilities for this include fecal incidents in the pool as well as failure of swimmers to rinse thoroughly before entering the pool.

Fortunately, no samples tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7, a toxin-producing strand that causes illness.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause skin rashes and ear infections, was detected in 59 percent of the pool filter samples, indicating either natural environmental contamination or contamination introduced by swimmers.

Furthermore, Cryptosporidium and Giardia, both of which are spread through feces and cause diarrhea, tested positive in just 2 percent of pool water.

While the study does not necessarily speak for every public pool throughout the nation, as the researchers report in a press release, “it is unlikely that swimmer-introduced contamination, or swimmer hygiene practices, differ between pools in the study and those in the rest of the country.”

The study was presented in recognition of Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week planned to take place between May 20 and 26.

“Swimming is an excellent way to get the physical activity needed to stay healthy,” Michele Hiavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, stated. “However, pool users should be aware of how to prevent infections while swimming. Remember chlorine and other disinfectants don’t kill germs instantly. That’s why it’s important for swimmers to protect themselves by not swallowing the water they swim in and to protect others by keeping feces and germs out of the pool by taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea.”

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