by Jennie Saxe
Like many of you, part of my holiday weekend plans will involve a trip to the local swimming pool to cool off and have fun. But safety is important, too. Everyone knows the standard pool policies: no running, no glassware near the pool, and no diving into shallow water. Your local pool also takes steps to keep you safe: lifeguards are trained, equipment is maintained, and the water is tested.
In addition to taking care of your skin while enjoying the sun, you and your family also have other important roles to play in making swimming safe for everyone. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some valuable resources for a safe and healthy summer at the pool.
One of the most important things to remember when swimming is: don’t swallow the water. Even though the water is chlorinated, some microorganisms are more resistant to chlorine than others, so there is still a chance that you could get sick by drinking the water, even if the chlorine levels are properly maintained. This is especially important for young children who are more likely to accidentally drink pool water while splashing around. To help minimize the risk of recreational water illnesses, never swim while you are sick, and make sure that the littlest swimmers wear appropriate swim diapers, as required by most pools, and check them frequently. CDC also has state-specific resources on recreational water illnesses and healthy swimming information.
If you have your own pool, be very careful adding treatment chemicals, like chlorine or algicides, to the pool water. These chemicals are very concentrated, and must be handled properly. Draining chlorinated water into a local waterbody can harm aquatic organisms, so when it’s time to empty your pool, the water should be drained responsibly, and in accordance with applicable local laws. Check with your state’s environmental agency if you have questions about requirements in your area.
Working together, we can all have a safe and fun summer at the pool.
About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA in 2003 and is currently a Water Policy Analyst in the Water Protection Division of EPA Region 3 in Philadelphia. When not in the office, Jennie enjoys swimming and tending to a vegetable garden.