US swimming pool inspections provide worrying statistics

A recent report by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that 80% of inspections of public aquatic venues in the United States found at least one violation of safety standards. Immediate closure is enforced on thousands of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds in the US every year as a result of safety concerns.

Swimming is often promoted as an excellent way of exercising as part of a healthy lifestyle. Water-based activities also provide good entertainment. However, as is the case with most physical activities, there are associated risks.

These include water-borne illness, drowning, and chemical poisoning or burns. They can be seriously debilitating and even fatal. Although people of all ages can be affected, young children are particularly at risk.

The Network for Aquatic Facility Inspection Surveillance (NAFIS) was established by the CDC to ensure the safety of swimming pools and other water-based venues. Their latest report summarises the findings of inspections made in the five US states that house most of the country's public pools and hot tubs (Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas). It includes inspection data from 84,187 routine inspections of 48,632 public aquatic venues.

No one should get sick or hurt when visiting a public pool, hot tub, or water playground. That’s why public health and aquatics professionals work together to improve the operation and maintenance of these public places so people will be healthy and safe when they swim.”

Beth Bell, CDC.

At least one safety violation was found in eight out of ten of the inspections conducted and these were so serious in 1 in 8 cases that immediate closure of the site was enforced. Most of these closures were of children's play pools (1 in 5 of those inspected had to be closed).

The safety violations most commonly encountered were incorrect pH (15%), improper safety equipment (13%), and unsuitable disinfectant concentration (12%).

Michele Hlavsa of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program highlighted the importance of making a safety judgement before using any facility “We should all check for inspection results online or on-site before using public pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds and do our own inspection before getting into the water.”

The CDC provide advice to swimmers on how to ensure their safety in water and have compiled a short and easy checklist to help people conduct their own safety assessment of a venue at which they plan to swim. Points to consider include the clarity of the water, and the presence of a lifeguard on duty or the availability of rescue equipment.

Next week is Pool Healthy and Safe Swimming Week and the CDC will be promoting the ways in which swimmers can help protect themselves from getting sick or hurt at pools or hot tubs.

Kate Bass

Written by

Kate Bass

Kate graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a biochemistry B.Sc. degree. She also has a natural flair for writing and enthusiasm for scientific communication, which made medical writing an obvious career choice. In her spare time, Kate enjoys walking in the hills with friends and travelling to learn more about different cultures around the world.

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