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For Immediate Release:
May 21, 2010
For more information contact:
Public Health Communications
(213) 240-8144

Don't Let Water-Related Illnesses Dampen Your Holiday
Improper use of pool chemicals, infections and water-related accidents cause thousands of hospital visits each year

LOS ANGELES - As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health would like to highlight the importance of safe swimming practices. The week before Memorial Day (May 24-30, 2010) has been designated as National Recreational Water Illness Prevention Week. This year's theme is the prevention of injuries associated with pool and spa chemicals.

"No one wants to swim or relax in a dirty pool or spa. Though cleaning chemicals help make recreational waters safer by killing bacteria and germs, they can also cause serious injuries when not handled and stored properly," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "Injuries can occur when people inhale fumes from the concentrated pool chemicals or if chemicals splash into their eyes. Improper storage can create a hazard for children and pets. Using chemicals safely should be as important as drowning prevention and pool safety."

Nationwide, pool chemicals cause about 5,200 emergency room visits annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay safe while handling pool chemicals:

  • Always read product label and manufacturer's directions before each use.
  • Always use appropriate protective gear, such as safety goggles and gloves, when handling pool chemicals.
  • Never mix chlorine products with each other, with acid, or with any other substance.
  • In addition, there are other hazards to be aware of when planning an outing to a pool, spa, or other recreational waters. "We want to encourage people to enjoy the great beaches, lakes, water parks, and swimming pools that Los Angeles County has to offer in the healthiest way possible," said Dr. Fielding. "That means taking precautions to ensure that you, your friends and family don't get sick from germs in lakes and the ocean. Don't swallow water while swimming or playing; do shower before entering a pool or spa, and practice good hygiene when visiting public swimming pools."

    Recreational water illnesses (RWI) are caused by swallowing water in pools, spas, oceans, lakes, or rivers. Diarrheal illnesses are most commonly reported and may be due to parasites and bacteria such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, or E. coli O157. Swimmers who ingest contaminated water could experience severe symptoms such as diarrhea, or milder symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and nausea.

    Accurate statistics on the number of cases of water-borne illness in Los Angeles County are not available because RWI often goes unreported or is misdiagnosed. Nationwide, there were 78 waterborne disease outbreaks associated with recreational water that were reported between 2005 and 2006, the most recent period for which there is published data, according to the CDC. Those 78 outbreaks left 4,412 sickened, resulting in 116 hospitalizations and five deaths.

    Swimmers and other recreational water users consider the following precautions when enjoying beaches, water parks, pools, or other venues:

  • People should routinely and carefully disinfect their pools or spas using chlorine or an equivalent product. They should also use a filter to screen out solids.
  • Swimmers, including children, who have diarrhea should never enter public water areas.
  • Toddlers should use swim diapers and the diaper should be checked often. If it needs to be changed, this should be done in the restroom and not near the water.
  • Swimmers should wash their hands after using the toilet, and after changing a child's diaper.
  • Swimmers, including children, should practice good hygiene by showering before entering the water.
  • Children should be taught to not swallow water either in swimming pools, in the ocean or in a lake.
  • Children ages one to nine years of age are particularly vulnerable to infection as they tend to swallow water indiscriminately. Pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are also at greater risk. Locally, people can find LA County public swimming pool inspection reports on the Public Health Web site to review recent closures or complaints.

    Recorded information on beach conditions is available around the clock on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Ocean Water Quality Hotline at 1-800-525-5662 and online at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/beach.

    The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.


    Related Information Site(s): Beach Information |