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Web Exclusive - September 2013

Aquatic Safety

Consortium Aims to Keep Pools Safe

The National Swimming Pool Foundation has placed a high priority on improving swimming pool safety, and increasing the understanding of the health benefits associated with aquatic immersion and exercise. As part of that mission, the nonprofit foundation takes part in public outreach and education.

One in five Americans admits to peeing in the pool, according to a 2012 survey by the Water Quality & Health Council. Unfortunately, several high-profile Olympians have said it is "OK" to pee in the pool. Nearly 100 percent of elite competitive swimmers admit to peeing in the pool, according to former U.S. National Team Swimmer Carly Geehr, in an interview with Quora.

The NSPF wants to ensure the public is well informed about healthy swimming habits. Thus, the nonprofit is organizing an initiative to make pool water safer and more appealing. A full-day workshop will explore strategies to influence public behavior and reduce urination in swimming pools.

"The tragedy and irony is that swimmers and coaches, who are most passionate about growing swimming and aquatics, are contributing to the problem," said Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D., of NSPF.

The news media can play a key role in helping to change behavior, and are invited to attend and participate in the workshop, which will be led by Edgar Papke following his keynote presentation at the World Aquatic Health Conference, Oct. 18, 2013 in Indianapolis.

"The October workshop is an opportunity to start a cultural shift," Lachocki said. "We strongly encourage the community of pool users, coaches and operators to come to the October workshop and work together to improve pool safety."

"Healthy swimming depends on what we swimmers bring into the pool—and what we keep out of it. We share the water we swim in, and we each need to do our part to keep ourselves, our families and our friends healthy," said Michele Hlavsa, chief of Healthy Swimming at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Have you ever walked into an indoor pool area, got a whiff of the strong chemical smell and thought, 'Wow, there's a lot of chlorine in the pool?' It's not actually the chlorine. It's the di- and tri-chloramines, or what you get when chlorine combines with what comes out of (e.g., pee) or washes off of (e.g., sweat and personal care products) swimmers' bodies. Di- and tri-chloramines are different from the mono-chloramine, which is sometimes used to treat our drinking water. They irritate the eyes and respiratory tract and can even aggravate asthma."

Urine in pools interferes with the chemistry and reduces the efficacy, thus compromising the safety and health of bathers.

"Peeing in the pool is a big deal; the addition of urine to the chemically treated water causes chemicals to form and helps unhealthy germs to survive," Lachocki said.

Hlavsa agreed, adding, "Mixing chlorine and urine not only creates di- and tri-chloramines—it also uses up the chlorine in the pool, which would otherwise kill germs."

"On top of that, it's not just about protecting those in the water," Lachocki said. "Lifeguards, coaches, parents and swimmers on deck are breathing in the air that has DBPs formed from urine and disinfectants—especially at indoor pool environments. Is it really too much to ask that swimmers take two minutes to use the restroom?"

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