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The hidden dangers of public pools

As summer approaches, more and more people find refuge from the heat in public swimming pools. However, both public and private pools come with risks – especially to children. Drowning is the leading cause of death among young kids, and Florida has the highest rate in the nation of drowning deaths among children ages 1 to 4.

A study recently released by the CDC sheds light on some of the dangers lurking in public pools. The study, which examined data from five states (including Florida) in 2013, showed that 1 in 10 public pools was closed due to health or safety violations. The most common violations included:

  • Inadequate amounts of chlorine or bromine, which can lead to outbreaks of illness-causing parasites and bacteria, including Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Shigella and Legionella
  • Inadequate safety equipment or enclosures, resulting in a heightened risk of drowning
  • Chemical violations such as improper labeling, storage or handling of chlorine, which can lead to respiratory distress, skin problems, eye inflammation and burn injuries

Maintaining the right balance of chemicals in any pool can be challenging. Although many public pools use automatic chemical feeders, these are not foolproof. Factors such as temperature, pH and exposure to UV rays can all impact the effectiveness of chlorine (and other disinfectants). Wading pools and hot tubs are particularly vulnerable to chemical imbalances because of their shallow depth and warmer temperatures.

Swimming pools are a frequent source of lawsuits, and as this study illustrates, public pools are not exempt from dangers.