Are Swimming Pools & Spas Safe?
Are swimming pools and spas safe?
There has been a lot in the press of late about legionella outbreaks and the risks of catching Legionnaires' Disease. So, what can you do to avoid being subjected to this disease or what can you do to not catch it at all?
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila is commonly found in natural water sources such as rivers, and lakes but this is usually in very low numbers. The majority the bacteria is located in purpose-built water systems, such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spas. Does this mean that you are subjected to catching legionnaires disease on a daily basis? The answer is yes if the establishment hasn’t carried out the necessary legionella risk assessments to protect everyone from this potentially fatal disease.
Rather than worrying about possibly catching Legionnaires' Disease when doing day-to-day activities such as swimming or visiting a spa, it’s better to be informed about the risks and to know the level of assessments establishments should be doing in order to protect yourself and others around you. Some people swim a couple of times a week or weekly as a fitness regime or use a pool and spa to relax, perhaps in the jacuzzi. However, it is important to be aware that there might be bacteria lurking within the water.
Water in swimming pools and spas are often a perfect environment for microorganisms to find a new host to breed. If someone has had a workout for example and has worked up a sweat, then decides to go for a swim without showing before they enter the pool they can bring parasites and microorganisms into the water, giving them the chance to find a new host. A parasite or microorganism might sound very extreme; however, parasites and microorganisms can be found in sweat, soap, perfume, shampoo, and deodorant. Therefore, it is hugely important to have a shower before you enter the water. If you go to a swimming pool that smells strongly of chlorine, this is usually because the more contaminated the water becomes. Pool attendants often add more chlorine as a way to ensure the water is clean and safe and the pool’s pumps and filters will have to work hard to remove these contaminants in the water.
Which diseases could be spread via swimming pool contamination?
Swimmers can inadvertently become exposed to a number of potentially dangerous waterborne pathogens that can contaminate pool water including E. coli, Salmonella, Camplobacter, Legionella, Pseudomonas and norovirus.
In some cases, there could be an outbreak of a disease that can be traced back to a swimming pool or spa. However, this is rare. Even if a pool is suspected as the cause of an outbreak, water testing could reveal no evidence of any microorganisms by the time it is conducted.
What to do before entering a swimming pool or spa
Before swimming or entering a spa pool, it’s always a good idea to conduct a quick visual check of the condition of the pool surroundings and water. The pool area should look clean and well maintained; the water itself should also be clean, clear, and free from discolouration or any strong or unpleasant smells. If the pool is properly chlorinated, it should minimise the number of microorganisms in there. Of course, since you cannot see them, you can never be 100% certain any pool is safe to use. Even when the maintenance is second to none, there could be microorganisms in there that cannot be killed by chlorine alone.
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