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June 7, 2017

Health department adds a follow-up recommendation to “Don’t Poop in the Pool,” warns swimmers, “Don’t Drink the Water”

Pam Davenport - Email

Nicholas Rupp - Email

(SALT LAKE COUNTY)— The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) kicked off its annual Healthy Swimming season by echoing the CDC’s newest recommendation that swimmers keep the water they swim in out of their mouths. Last month, the CDC announced that Cryptosporidium outbreaks in the U.S. have doubled since 2014 (from 16 in 2014 to 32 in 2016), though Salt Lake County crypto cases remain lower than average thanks to conscientious swimmers and effective pool operators. 

The national increase in outbreaks, along with swimmer survey information, led the CDC to add a follow-up recommendation to their usual “Don’t Poop in the Pool,” now also warning swimmers, “Don’t Drink the Water.”

“A recent survey found that one in four adults (25%) have gone swimming within one hour of having diarrhea,” explained Rick Ledbetter, SLCoHD water quality supervisor. “And 1 in 5 (20%) admit that they pee in the pool. That doesn’t include adults who don’t admit it, or children who may not know better!”

Other statistics show that

  • Half of adults (52%) “seldom or never” shower before swimming in a pool.
  • The average swimmier has about 10 grams of fecal matter (poop) on their body at any given time (that’s 10 million microbes or about the weight of 4 pennies).
  • Three in five adults (60%) admit to swallowing pool water while swimming.

“Data also suggest that swallowing fewer than 10 crypto organisms can result in becoming infected,” Ledbetter says, “so it doesn’t take much water in your mouth to make you sick.”

On average, adults swallow about 1 tablespoon of pool water. Kids swallow over double that amount with 2.5 tablespoons. One small sip of fecal-contaminated water could make you sick for up to three weeks with nausea, vomiting or watery diarrhea.

Crypto is the most common cause of diarrheal illness linked to swimming pools and water playgrounds because it’s not easily killed by chlorine, and it can survive up to 10 days in chemically treated water. UV filtration is a more effective method of killing crypto, but it can take time to run all the water in a large feature through a UV filtration system.

Those challenges are why educated swimmers remain the #1 defense against crypto and other waterborne illnesses, and health officials remind swimmers to wash thoroughly—especially backsides—immediately before entering a pool or water feature.

“It’s best to keep poop out of the pool in the first place, so wash often and wash well,” said Ledbetter. “And in case others aren’t as responsible as you—keep the pool water out of your mouth.”