If you’ve spent time at a hotel pool this summer, there's a 1 in 6 chance you've been exposed to contaminated water that can cause illnesses, according to CBS News.
CBS News reported, “The Centers for Disease Control and Control and Prevention found that, aside from childcare facilities, that 16,569 hotels, resorts and motels had the highest rate of closure due to serious code violations, mainly low disinfectant in the water to battle bacteria, about 15% or 1 in 6 hotel inspections.”
Low levels of disinfectant, which merit serious code violations, have real implications for swimmers. Cryptosporidiosis, an intestinal parasite, has been wreaking havoc on those who visit public pools, splash pads and waterparks. The CDC describes symptoms as, “profuse, watery diarrhea that can last up to 2–3 weeks in immunocompetent patients and can lead to life-threatening wasting and malabsorption in immunocompromised patients.”
According to CNN, in Ohio alone, nearly 2,000 people became sick from cryptosporidiosis last year. 42% of those outbreaks were linked to aquatic venues. Lubbock, Texas is currently battling an outbreak. In a press release, the city of Lubbock said, "Over 40 cases have been reported in the last 30 days compared to 25 cases reported in all of 2016. Cryptosporidiosis is caused by the cryptosporidium parasite, and there are an estimated 750,000 cases in the United States every year."
This contamination is showing no signs of slowing down, outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis linked to public pools have doubled in the U.S. from 2014 to 2016. The recent uptick in these outbreaks have been caused by poor public pool sanitation. WHEC reported, “Studies suggest a quarter of them are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that should have been killed by proper pool treatment and chlorination.”
The CDC reported, “Fecal-oral transmission of cryptosporidium oocysts, the parasite’s infectious life stage, occurs via ingestion of contaminated recreational water.” The CDC recommends, “Young swimmers aged <5 years are more likely to contaminate the water because they are more likely to have inadequate toileting and hygiene skills; therefore, prevention efforts should focus on their parents.”
Swimmers expose pool water to urine and sunblock, which both contain nitrogen. These levels of nitrogen can eat away at chlorine in the pool. In turn, lower disinfectant levels in pool water can allow cryptosporidiosis to spread.
However, children aren’t the only ones to blame for high levels of urine found in pools, 1 in 5 adults also admitted to peeing in a public pool.
What should management change?
Keeping contaminated swimmers out of the water is one way to slow the spread of these infections, but pool managers also have a role to play. Those responsible for maintaining public pools should reevaluate the procedures they use to keep pools clean.
Maintaining appropriate chlorine levels can help, however according to the CDC, "Crypto is the most common cause of diarrheal illness and outbreaks linked to swimming pools or water playgrounds because it is not easily killed by chlorine and can survive up to 10 days in properly treated water. Swallowing just a mouthful of water contaminated with crypto can make otherwise healthy people sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and can lead to dehydration."
The bacteria features a hard shell that makes it increasingly difficult to be eradicated with chlorine. It is important that staff are trained properly to deal with the chemical and don't use too much in an attempt to stop the outbreak, which comes with its own set of health risks.
According to CNN, “equipment failure and human error can lead to the release of toxic chlorine gas at public pools and water venues.” In 2015, about 50 people were in an outdoor public pool in California when 34 began to vomit, cough or feel eye irritation, according to a CDC report. The incident was caused by a “chemical controller malfunction (that) allowed sodium hypochlorite to react with muriatic acid, leading to the release of toxic chlorine gas.”
Ozone vs. Chlorine
Ozone, a more natural alternative to chlorine, could be the answer to solving cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in public water facilities. Cryptosporidiosis is less resilient to ozone. Beth Hamil, a consultant for the ozone industry, told AQUA Magazine, "Certainly there are other ways to kill it, but in pools by far the best way to prevent outbreaks is with an adequately sized ozone system.”
She continued, "The Ct value for chlorine to achieve a three-log reduction in Crypto is 15,600. That equates to 20 ppm for 13 hours. The Ct value for commercial ozone systems is 1.52. It's literally 10,000 times more effective."
Ozone is faster and more effective than chlorine because chlorine needs to diffuse through the cell wall and disrupt bacteria's metabolism. Ozone rips open the cell wall from the outside, causing the cell contents to fall apart. This process is called cell lysing and is much more effective than chlorine's process of disrupting the metabolism. With ozone, after the destruction of the cell, O3 (ozone) simply reverts back to O2 (oxygen). The additional oxygen in the water creates a safe, clean and refreshing swimming experience.
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Many customers have found the use of ozone can reduce reliance on other chemical usage by up to 95%, depending on weather conditions and pool characteristics.
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- Cut the Crap: The Dark Side of Hotel Pools and How to Manage It: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cut-the-crap-the-dark-side-of-hotel-pools-and-how-to-manage-it/
- Ozone vs. Cryptosporidium: Fighting a Wave of Outbreaks: http://aquamagazine.com/features/ozone-vs-cryptosporidium-fighting-a-wave-of-outbreaks.html?eid=340123455&bid=1835274
- Pool Party Poopers: CDC warns of parasitic infection, toxi gas: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/19/health/cryptosporidium-chlorine-gas-pool-cdc/
- Using Molecular Characterization to Support Investigations of Aquatic Facility-Associated Outbreaks of Cryptosporidiois: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6619a2.htm?s_cid=mm6619a2_w
- 40 Cases of Cryptosporidios Have Been Reported in Lubbock in 30 Days: http://1025kiss.com/40-cases-of-cryptosporidiosis-have-been-reported-in-lubbock-in-30-days/