Feature Article - June 2008
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The Deep End

Setting New, Science-Based Standards
Nearly 9 Percent of Respondents Plan to Add UV Sytems

Standards based on scientific research are growing, according to Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). And from the science, business practices follow.

"Science gives us the numbers, and the numbers empower us to make better decisions," Lachocki explained. "In the modern aquatic recreational water field, it's really been only in the last four years that we've had a scientific conference (the World Aquatic Health Conference, taking place this year on Oct. 15 to 17 in Colorado Springs—visit www.nspf.org/WAHC_2008.html for more information), and really only the last year that we had a scholarly journal. We're starting to see real tangible learning and wisdom."

As an example, Lachocki said that many lifeguarding tactics in use today are not based on science. "The research being done by the Red Cross, YMCA and U.S. Lifesaving is showing what's based on science and what isn't," Lachocki explained. "Those results will show up in a big way this fall."

He added, "Until a year ago, we didn't have an exact way to verify the chemicals people are smelling at indoor pools." But Purdue is taking advantage of some extremely powerful techniques that have never been applied in the field, allowing them to "instantaneously identify the chemicals in the air above the pool as well as the chemicals in the water. …The work is going to help us understand why certain chemicals are in the air, what they are, how to eliminate them and, more importantly, how to prevent them."

With the scientific light shining on all of these important problems in the field of aquatics, Lachocki said facility managers will be enabled to find solutions using the most recent data. As another example, he cited the work going on in the area of UV systems. "For many, the primary focus is the public health benefit of reducing bacteria, parasites and water-borne illnesses, but the parallel benefit of these technologies is their positive impact on indoor air quality," Lachocki said.

As those studies verify all of these benefits of UV systems, more facilities may plan to add them to their facilities. According to the study, while 7.7 percent of aquatic facilities currently use a UV system, another 8.8 percent of respondents have plans to add a UV system over the next three years.

These systems treat 100 percent of the water returned to the pool, helping control chloramines (responsible for that smelly indoor pool air) as well as disinfecting chlorine-resistant pathogens, like the bothersome cryptosporidium. In fact, after last summer's crypto outbreak in Utah, all of Salt Lake City's public pools were required to install UV systems. The state of New York mandates this technology for all splash playgrounds. The extra benefit of UV systems is that they represent a non-chemical, more environmentally friendly treatment option.

The systems also help address indoor air quality, reducing chloramines, and as more aquatic recreational facilities build enclosures to improve their reach and value year-round, as well as growing their cash flow and improving employee retention and skill development, indoor air quality will be a top concern. "As more facilities go indoors, it's important that they minimize any negative exposures," Lachocki said. "When you walk in and it smells bad, there's an obvious problem that needs to be taken care of."