Just In Time To Ruin Your Summer Plans, CDC Study Shows Alarming Levels Of Poo In Public Pools

shutterstock_77204545Just in time for summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study letting parents know there’s a lot of poo in your town pool. And they aren’t talking about the Baby Ruth that Bill Murray fishes out of the swimming hole in Caddyshack. They are talking actual fecal matter.

Researchers found 58% of the public pools they tested last year were found to contain genetic material from E. coli bacteria normally found in the human gut and feces.

What the? Where does that come from? (looks around) You’re looking at me?

This shows that “swimmers frequently introduced fecal material into pools,” which could spread germs to other people, the researchers wrote in their report.The fecal material in pools comes from swimmers not showering before getting into the water, and from incidents of defecation in pools, according to the report. The average person has 0.14 grams of fecal material on their “perianal surface” that can rinse into a pool if a person doesn’t shower first, according to the report.

But pools are cleaned and constantly replenished with chlorine, so this isn’t a concern, right?  Not quite. Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, explains that chlorine does not kill germs instantly and is not the most effective way to treat this bacteria. Instead, prevention is key.

I think this may have set back the summer swim lessons I’ve already been putting off every year. When my first born was a baby every parent I know was taking their kids to swimming lessons at the local YMCA. Classes started at six months and were intended to introduce the kids to water, getting them comfortable with the experience. I wasn’t sure why so many new mothers were volunteering to get in a bathing suit six months after giving birth, but I had other hang-ups – I’m not a strong swimmer and I’ve always been terrified of public pools.

The indoor pools I’d seen on tours of gyms I never signed up for smell so strongly of chlorine I felt high afterwards. And when my baby was born I was so worried about the kinds of lotions and soaps I used on his brand-new skin, that I didn’t think he was up for 45 minutes of soaking in chemicals and I imagined it would just make all my hard work useless. Up until now my fears were more around the pee and chlorine content, but now there’s poop to contend with too. In NYC the only options are public pools so I’m pretty much thinking my kids will never learn to swim.

But if you are one of those parents that spends the entire summer at your town pool, the CDC offers some constructive ways to battle the poop in pools problem.

It’s important that swimmers shower before getting in a pool, not swallow the water they swim in, and avoid swimming when they have diarrhea, she said.The CDC also recommends that parents of young children take children on a bathroom break every hour, or check diapers every 30 to 60 minutes. Diapers should be changed in a diaper-changing area, not near the poolside.

And definitely, definitely not at a Starbucks.

(photo: holbox/Shutterstock)

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