WRITER: MEGAN HAYDEN
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
UI researchers say disease risk from swimming pools is small, yet
still a concern
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As summer approaches, University of Iowa microbiologists
will be working to insure that public swimming pools are properly operated
and free of contamination.
Dr. Nelson Moyer, principal microbiologist at the UI Hygienic Laboratory,
and his staff examine water samples for traces of coliform bacteria and
pseudomonads, indicators of contamination in swimming pools and whirlpools.
Diseases such as cryptosporidiousis, which causes diarrhea, and pseudomonas
foliculitis, which causes an itchy rash along the swimsuit line, are typical
of the diseases acquired in pools.
Whirlpools, or hot tubs, have the most potential for contamination due
to their high water temperatures. "Bacteria thrives in warm temperatures,"
Moyer says. "If not properly maintained, whirlpools can be a haven
for bacteria." When whirlpools became popular during the 1980s, outbreaks
of pseudomonas were prevalent. While the maintenance of public whirlpools
has become regulated, outbreaks today tend to occur in private homes, where
maintenance is not regulated.
Dr. Nancy Hall, public health microbiologist at the UI Hygienic Laboratory,
suggests several steps to prevent recreational pool contamination. "Pool
operators need to monitor pH levels, make sure their filtration systems
are properly functioning and keep proper disinfection levels at all times,"
While pool operators bear the majority of the responsibility, swimmers
also need to take precautions. "Even though many people tend to ignore
this caution, it is very important to bathe before you swim to prevent
pool contamination," Hall says.
While testing for contamination in pools is very important, Moyer says
that swimming pool outbreaks are rare in Iowa. "State laws require
pool operators to carefully monitor pool operation and maintenance,"
Moyer says. "Through proper care and disinfection, the number of diseases
contracted through pools are very small."