Public Pools Are Officially Grosser Than You Thought: How to Keep Your Kids Safe This Summer

public swimming pool

If you were looking forward to making a splash at the local pool with your kids this summer, well, you might want to find another way to cool off: According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly eight out of 10 public pools were found to be in violation of at least one safety rule during routine inspections, with one out of eight investigations revealing issues so severe that the pool needed to be shut down.


Besides extremely off-putting things like fecal matter (ugh!) and parasites (ack!) present in the water, the most prevalent problems had to do with pool pH levels and the concentration of disinfectants; safety equipment was also commonly found to be faulty.

That Slip 'n' Slide is sounding better and better, right? Now, before you rip up your membership card to the community pool, it's worth noting that these findings are based on investigations of 48,632 public pools and other "aquatic venues" in five states (Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas), which are home to 40 percent of America's approximately 309,000 "public water play facilities" -- so it's quite possible that your local water hole makes the grade.
But on the other hand, if these issues were so consistent in that many public pools, there's no reason to assume your favorite spot is any better. So how can you tell if a pool is safe for your family?
We reached out to Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, for tips. 
First of all, before heading to a public pool, water playground, or even a hot tub or spa, "swimmers should check to see if the latest inspection results are available online or on-site," says Hlavsa.

"We check inspection results before we go out to eat; why not before we swim?"

Then when you get to the pool, conduct your own investigation using Hlavsa's checklist:

1. Check to make sure the water’s pH and free chlorine or bromine levels are correct. (This can be done with a test strip found at a superstore or pool-supply store.)  Improper pH and levels make it easier for germs like E. coli to spread in the water and make people sick. 

2. Check whether the drain at the bottom of the deep end is visible. Clear water allows lifeguards and other swimmers to clearly see swimmers underwater.

3. Check that the drain covers appear to be secured and in good repair. This can help prevent a swimmer from getting caught in a loose or broken drain cover and trap the swimmer underwater.

4. Check whether a lifeguard is on duty. If not, make sure there is safety equipment, such as a rescue ring or pole, available.

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If your pool fails to meet any of these requirements, don't swim -- or let your kids in there! Instead, point out the problems to the person in charge; if subsequent changes aren't made, get in touch with your local health department.

And in the meantime -- beach, anyone?


Image via Chiang

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