Reminder: Swimming Pools Are Gross

by Emma Cueto

We are rapidly coming up on the scorching summer days when all you want to do is lounge in the pool. Unfortunately, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would like to spoil that lovely image for you by reminding everyone that swimming pools are actually disgusting. Because everything is awful and we're all suffering together.

The fact that swimming pools — particularly public pools — are probably pretty gross is one of those things everybody knows on some level, but nobody really wants to think too much about. After all, isn't everyone just happier that way? Unless, I guess, you're the CDC."Every year, serious health and safety violations force thousands of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds to close," the organization notes on their website; what's more, they're eager to share additional information in a newly released study.

In the study, which examined swimming pools in the five states with the most pools and hot tubs (Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas), researchers found that during routine inspection, 80 percent of venues were in violation of at least one health and safety measure. Furthermore, one in eight of the inspections actually forced the immediate closure of the facility. That's how severe the health and safety violations were so severe.

The good news is that not all of these violations are about how gross the water is. The bad news is that most of the ones that aren't are actually about safety equipment. In fact, safety equipment infractions account for 13 percent of all violations. On the other hand, improper pH and improper disinfectant concentration were also among the most common issues, accounting for 15 percent and 12 percent of infractions, respectively. And those definitely are related to the likelihood that the pool is full of diseases.

And indeed, sometimes pools are. A total of 90 disease outbreaks tied to public pools and other recreational water facilities were reported to the CDC between 2011 and 2012, for instance, resulting in 1,788 cases and almost 100 hospitalizations. In fact, it's common enough that the CDC even has a term for this type of thing: recreational water illness or RWI. And of the most common RWIs is diarrhea contracted from swallowing water that contains trace amounts of feces.

So what are you supposed to do about any of this? To keep yourself safe, the CDC recommends that you look up the results of a pool's health and safety inspection before going there. They also add that you can do a strip test to check the pH balance of a pool on the day you're actually there, as proper pH balance will kill most germs. And, of course, always making sure there's a lifeguard on duty.

Or, you know, you could just do what we all try to do when it comes to public pools and just not think too hard about it.

Images: Juana Salamanca/Pexels; Giphy (2)