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Poop in Pools? CDC Say 60 Pct of Pools Offer More Than Just a Refreshing Dip

May 17, 2013 12:03 AM EDT
swimming pool
What's lurking in the water? The CDC say nearly 60 percent of public pools have fecal material in them.
(Photo : Reuters)

Taking a dip in your local public pool this summer might not be so appealing now that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that nearly 60 percent of public pools contain a detectable amount of bacteria found in human feces that can cause rashes and infections.

Researchers with the CDC collected 161 filter samples from indoor and outdoor public pools in the Atlanta, Ga., region during last summer's busy swimming season last year and tested them for bacteria. More than half of those samples, 58 percent, were contaminated with E. coli which is typically found in the human gut and feces. To soften the blow, the report noted that none of the samples tested positive for the E. coli O157:H7 strain, which is known to cause illness.

Researchers also discovered genetic material from bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, whichcan cause skin rashes and ear infections, in 59 percent of pools, according to the study which was published in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC warns the problem is not limited to Georgia, but it's likely prevalent throughout the rest of the country. The researchers collected samples of water from the pools' filters, and looked for the genetic material of specific bacteria. 

"That signifies that swimmers introduced fecal matter into pool water," the CDC said in the report. To remedy the situation, the CDC suggests parents should take children to the bathroom every 60 minutes or check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes. Parents should also change diapers in a changing area in the bathroom, and not near the pool. However, children are not the only ones to blame as 1 in 5 Americans admit to peeing in the pool, according to a survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council.

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," said Michele Hlavsa, CDC Healthy Swimming Program chief, in the agency's statement.

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