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One in Five Americans Pee in Pool; Almost Half Admit Unhygienic Pool Behavior
Date:5/14/2009

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Water Quality & Health Council Offer Ways to Curb the Tide of Rising Recreational Water Illnesses

ARLINGTON, Va., May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Do you know what's in your public pool? Findings from a recent survey show that when it comes to public pools this summer, watch thy fellow swimmer closely! Rather than worry about the availability of lounge chairs, lockers, and food and beverages, swimmers should be thinking more about basic questions of pool water cleanliness.

According to a survey conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council, 84 percent of Americans believe their fellow swimmers participate in unhygienic pool behavior - and they may be right. In fact, almost half (47%) admit to one or more behaviors that contribute to an unhealthy pool.

Peeing in the pool? One in five say they've done it (17%) - and eight in ten (78%) are convinced their fellow swimmers are guilty. As far as showering goes - forget it. Roughly one third (35%) pass the shower without stopping and three quarters (73%) say their fellow swimmers fail to shower before swimming.

Why Worry? Despite strong doubts about their fellow swimmers, only a third (36%) say pool water cleanliness is top of mind when they head to the pool. At the same time, most (63%) are unaware of illnesses associated with swallowing, breathing, or having contact with contaminated pool water. In fact, less than one quarter consider the frequency of pool cleaning and chemical treatment (23%) and even less (16 %) think about chlorine levels to maintain clean pool water.

"Swimming is a fun and healthy activity for old and young alike. Proper water chlorination helps protect swimmers from germs that can make swimmers sick," said Michele Hlavsa, Epidemiologist in the Division of Parasitic Diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "But swimmers also have a role to play in maintaining a clean and healthy pool. Unhygienic behavior brings germs into the pool and makes it harder for chlorine to do its job."

The CDC urges pool users to follow these six tips for healthy swimming:

  • Don't swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Don't swallow pool water.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside.
  • Wash your children thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before they go swimming.

Unclean water can lead to recreational water illnesses (RWI's) - diarrhea, respiratory illness, and ear and skin infections. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems can suffer from more severe illness if infected. According to the CDC, these illnesses are on the rise. Between 2005 and 2006, 78 outbreaks were reported in 31 states - the largest number of outbreaks ever in a two-year period. Close to 4,500 people were affected.

To check that your public pool is properly chlorinated, the Water Quality & Health Council recommends the use of portable pool and spa testing strips, easily purchased at pool supply stores and discount retailers, in addition to trusting your basic senses.

"A smelly pool is a dirty pool," explains National Consumers League President Emeritus and Water Quality & Health Council Vice-Chair Linda Golodner. "Look for water that's clean, clear and blue. Check for tiles that feel smooth and clean. Make sure there are no strong odors. Listen for pool cleaning equipment. Using your senses help you recognize the difference between a healthy pool and one that needs cleaning and treatment."

For more information on identifying and maintaining a healthy pool, as well as healthy swim behaviors, please visit www.healthypools.org and www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.

The survey was conducted online between April 30 to May 3, 2009 among a national sample of 1,000 US Adults, using the field services of TNS Omnibus. Results were weighted to reflect the adult population based on US Census figures, including age, gender, geographic region, household income and household size. The margin of error for the study was +/-3.1 percentage points at 95% confidence.

The Water Quality & Health Council (WQHC) is a body of independent scientific experts, health professionals and consumer advocates who serve as advisors to the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association.


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SOURCE Water Quality & Health Council
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