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Pools, Spas Spawn Record-High Illnesses

Swimming is one of my favorite sports, but it's much healthier to do it in the ocean where the salt water can kill many of the parasites that live on our skin. Considering the poor quality of our existing community water supplies, not to mention the chlorination, swimming in a pool is a far more inferior alternative, and not a very healthy one either. If you're not sure, consider this: You can absorb more chlorine after one hour in a pool than you will from a week of drinking tap water.

With all those cautions noted, it's not at all surprising to me the number of Americans who got sick from swimming or bathing in tainted pools, spas and other facilities jumped 21 percent to a record high during 2001 and 2002. What made diving in spas and pools more hazardous?

  • Poor pool and spa maintenance
  • Watershed contamination
  • The tendency of some people to swim while sick

Some 2,500 swimmers and recreational bathers in 23 states contracted recreational-linked waterborne diseases between January 2001 and December 2002. Sixty-one people were hospitalized and eight died. In comparison, 2,093 people contracted similar illnesses during 59 recreational water-related outbreaks in 1999-2000.

Almost half of the more recent diarrhea outbreaks among bathers were caused by Cryptosporidium, a microscopic chlorine-resistant parasite. Pools frequently become contaminated through fecal matter from sick adults and kids.

Experts say outbreaks could be limited by improved public awareness of diarrhea and by changing swimming pool policies to require bathroom breaks for children and separate water filtration systems for "kiddie" pools.

Yahoo News October 21, 2004

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