How Safe Are Swimming Pools?

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A trip to the beach is more than just a weekend activity and an opportunity to tan; it provides us with a much deeper need: the need to be connected to the ocean. It’s one of the rare experiences that allows us to completely immerse ourself in nature and truly appreciate the vastness of the ocean. Sadly though, the recent garbage crisis that has contaminated our beautiful, clear blue Mediterranean waters to unthinkable levels has had us scared of going anywhere near the sea, depriving us of the uplifting, nourishing pleasure of being one with the Ocean, and with ourself.

The only option we are left with to enjoy a dip and be in water  is swimming pools. While they may seem safe on the surface, there are some health risks and hazards we’re exposed to when their condition and maintenance are not up to international standards. Whether it’s because the owner is stingy, ignorant of safety guidelines, or simply indifferent to our wellbeing, these standards are unmet in most public pools nowadays.

That’s why you should always ask the person responsible at any pool you visit if the water’s pH level is between 7.2 and 7.8, if chlorine level is between 1 and 3 parts per million, and if the filtration system runs every 2 – 3 hours. If the answer to any of those questions is no, you should definitely stay away from that water!

 

Swimming pool water standards and guidelines

 

  • Filtration:

Water being pumped into a pool should always go through a filtration system that removes particles and debris, but that’s not enough. Filters might not always remove all the dirt, which is why a disinfectant is always added.

  • Disinfection:

As you already know, the most common disinfectant in pools is chlorine. It’s popular because it’s efficient in destroying most germs and because it’s inexpensive. The recommended quantity is 3 mg/l and as long as you wear the appropriate protection, you should be safe.

  • pH:

One of the most irritating things about swimming pools is that we can’t open our eyes when we’re in the water without goggles. Our eyes will immediately itch and burn, and while you may think this is the norm, it’s not. The pH of our eyes is 7.4. Any contact with a substance that’s not close to that value is harmful, which is why the ideal pH for swimming pool water is between 7.2 and 7.6.

 

Potential hazards from unsafe swimming pools

A pool that doesn’t meet the safety standards can result in itchiness, skin rashes, red eyes, and more, but the main health hazards actually come from people.

When someone gets into a pool, he or she brings in their hair, sweat, skin, and fecal matter. The pool could also contain bacteria from animals if it’s in an open space. All these mix with chlorine and produce byproducts that have been linked with respiratory ailments, accelerated aging, birth defects, and even cancer.

Athlete’s foot and fungus are other possible conditions you can get. If someone who already has foot fungus, it can very easily be transmitted in the water. You can even get it in the public shower if you’re not wearing flip flops or water-resistant shoes.

Bacterial infections can also occur. The most common one is swimmer’s ear and it happens when water stays in your ear for a few days, allowing bacteria to grow and become infectious. It can also be induced by improper chlorine and pH levels. If you feel like there’s still water in your ears after you get out of the pool, tilt your head from left to right with slight bouncing effect to let out the water and dry your ears well.  

What you can do to stay safe

You can reduce or eliminate your risk of contracting something from swimming pools by taking these steps:

  • Put on goggles, swimming caps, and ear plugs

Always wear appropriate protection to avoid getting any chlorine or bacteria in your eyes, hair, and ears.

  • Stay clean

Keeping the pool safe starts with you. Before you step into the pool, take a shower to clean your body from sweat, urine, fecal matter, and bacteria. That way, you won’t be bringing any harm to the water yourself. After you’re done swimming, take another shower and dry yourself well, especially your ears.

  • Stay away from crowded pools

Needless to say, the more people there are, the higher the risk. Wait until it’s less crowded and get in about 30 minutes after that to allow the filtration system and disinfectant to do their job.

  • Ask the owner about chlorine and pH

You have the right to know what you’re dipping yourself into. If you’re unsure, you can always test the pH yourself using pH test strips.

  • Never swallow water

Chlorinated water does not belong in your digestive system! Read all about the hazards of chlorinated water here.

 

Not many people are aware of how easy it is to catch a disease from a swimming pool. Now that summer is around the corner, it’s the perfect time to share this post with your friends and family.

Sources

http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwe2full.pdf https://waterandhealth.org/healthy-pools/understanding-swimming-pool-chemistry-2/

https://www.medicaldaily.com/feces-water-and-5-other-health-risks-swimming-public-pools-245996

https://www.livescience.com/9994-health-risk-public-pools.html

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