Supplement Feature - February 2008
Find a printable version here

A Perfect Storm

Are Water and Air Quality on Your Radar Screen Yet?

By Joseph Ryan

The sharp rise prompted local health officials to ban all children under the age of 5 from swimming pools for all of August. Regional bans on diaper-wearing children and adults continued into the fall season.

Utah, though, was not alone. Increases were reported in Idaho (230 cases over 23 the previous year), South Dakota (108 cases over 31 the previous year) and Colorado (50 cases in August over an annual average about 12).

Crypto outbreaks in Kansas City forced officials there to shut down several public pools on the eve of Labor Day weekend, a pool operator's worst nightmare, according to media reports.

"These are things no recreation department ever wants to be involved with," Lachocki said, noting the damage to business and public perception such high-profile cases cause the industry.

CDC officials are attributing the increase in crypto outbreaks to better reporting practices as well as more people using aquatic facilities.

It remains unclear if there is an actual increase in infected pools across the nation. But that won't matter to the swimming public, especially when the CDC institutes a new electronic outbreak reporting program next year that is expected to lead to even more dramatic leaps in official infection tallies.

The increase in illness outbreaks is not coming without notable action from the CDC.

Last May, CDC officials set up a steering committee of industry professionals to develop a national model for aquatic facility regulation. The model is expected to outline what types of filtration and disinfection techniques should be employed at aquatic facilities, along with a possible standard for pool operator training.

Once released, potentially next year or earlier, the model regulations will be a guideline for other states and municipalities. As crypto cases continue to make headlines, it is relatively certain that public pressure will increase for local health officials to adopt the new, likely stricter rules.

Essentially, this chain of events means higher standards for aquatic facility operators that will likely include the implementation of more costly disinfection processes than the typical chlorine-and-sand-filter combination. CDC officials alluded to such in their recent special report detailing the sweeping crypto outbreaks in the summer of 2007.

"Reducing the risk for future outbreaks will require changes in pool water disinfection practices," the report reads. "A multifaceted approach for prevention of (crypto) in treated water venues must address operational, technological, and behavioral factors related to recreational water use."