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Problematic Pools

The Early Show, kids swim in pool
CBS/The Early Show
This summer, crystal clear swimming pools may be tempting for a dip to escape the heat.

But more than half of the public pools tested in five states last summer had at least one serious problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A number of bacteria may be contaminating local pools and getting parents and kids sick.

The CDC's Dr. Michael Beach visited The Early Show to help make summer safe for those thinking of taking a swim.

He says contrary to popular belief, treating pools with chlorine is not enough to prevent bacteria from contaminating the water and getting people sick.

Dr. Beach explains chlorine doesn't kill germs in water instantaneous. It can take hours or even days to kill some bacteria. So even though a pool operator may be doing the right things in the morning, bacteria can be brought in the pool throughout the day by swimmers.

The CDC found poor cleaning and maintenance of pools, filtration systems or improper staff training in California, Florida and three other states may be exposing Americans to harmful bacteria that cause illnesses. The same dangers may be found in other states, too.

Dr. Beach says almost 10 percent of the pools had violations so severe that they were immediately closed. The highest percentage of problems occurred in children's wading pools, medical and therapy baths and hotel and motel bathing areas.

CDC officials say inadequate training of staff, especially in apartment complexes and hotels, was at the heart of the trouble with the nation's pools. In addition to swimming pools, swimming in contaminated hot tubs, oceans, lakes, rivers and playing in decorative water fountains can also spread recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

For example, a swimmer ill with diarrhea or diaper-aged children can bring germs that carry and contaminate the water if they have an "accident" in the pool.

RWIs may affect eyes, skin, ears, and cause respiratory infections. If disinfectant is not maintained at the appropriate levels in pools of water, germs can increase to the point where they can cause illness when swimmers breathe or have contact with water containing these germs.

Dr. Beach gives the following pool tips for swimmers to help prevent illness.

  • Don't swallow water.
  • Take regular bathroom breaks.
  • Don't change diapers near the pool
  • Shower with soap before swimming.
  • Wash hands well.
  • Don't swim sick.
  • Change diapers regularly