Feature Article - July 2011
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Making Waves

New Strides in Aquatic Safety

By Jessica Royer Ocken

This layered review process is intended to ensure thoroughness and scientific accuracy, and the MAHC committee hopes a first edition of the entire MAHC will be up for initial public review sometime in 2011. "Once all the MAHC modules are revised after their first 60-day review, the entire MAHC will be posted again for another 60-day public comment period to allow reviewers to review sections across modules and check the entire MAHC for completeness," explained Douglas C. Sackett, director of the MAHC.

Once the MAHC is complete, it will be posted to the CDC Web site for easy access. The committee's goal is that the MAHC be a "living document" that is updated regularly with the latest developments in the field and as new scientific data becomes available. Information about the project and modules up for review will also be available from the NSPF. Visit http://nspf.org/en/Resources/prevention.aspx to sign up to make sure you receive the latest news.

The committee is especially excited about the "Annex" portion of the MAHC, which will outline the scientific rationale behind the new model code's requirements and hopefully help operators understand why suggested changes are warranted. "One example of a proposed new change will be that all high-risk aquatic venues (such as wading pools, spas and therapy pools) will be required to use secondary disinfection by ozone or ultraviolet radiation treatment," says Sackett. "Other proposed changes include requiring trained operators at aquatic facilities, requiring chemical controllers, chemical storage room guidelines, improved requirements for air ventilation, and the development of best practices for regulatory programs," he reports.

That sounds like a lot, but it's important to remember this is a model that state and local agencies may adopt in part, not at all, or not all at once. "The model is a guidance document, based soundly on current science," said Tracynda Davis, MPH, director of Environmental Health Programs for the NSPF and member of the MAHC committee. "We hope local and state jurisdictions adopt these guidelines over time and incorporate them in part or entirely in their pool regulations."

Sackett added that there will be an array of benefits if the MAHC is adopted across the country. "It will bring uniformity by providing the most current, science-based guidelines for design and operation of swimming pools and improve public health," he said. "In addition, aquatics industry professionals who work in multiple jurisdictions that adopt the MAHC will be able to follow a single code, not different codes in different jurisdictions." And that's something that makes everyone's life easier, as well as healthier.

So, although maintaining a safe, healthy, and fun aquatic recreation area is by no means a simple task, there are ever-increasing (and ever-better-organized) resources available to assist you in all aspects of this endeavor. This summer, have fun and use these tools to keep your swimmers safe!