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Study: Half of Americans use swimming pools as communal bathtub

Around half of Americans reported using a swimming

Around half of Americans reported using a swimming pool as an alternative to showering or rinsing off after engaging in exercise or yard work, according to a new survey. Credit: TNS/Dreamstime

Summer is almost here, and one of the ways to stay out of the heat is to take a dip in the pool.

But how clean is the water?

According to a new survey presented by the Water Quality and Health Council, 51 percent of Americans reported using a swimming pool as a communal bathtub — using the pool as an alternative to showering or rinsing off after engaging in exercise or yard work. Even though 64 percent of Americans know pool chemicals don't eliminate the need to shower, people continue to do it anyway.

"When dirt, sweat, personal care products, and other things on our bodies react with chlorine, there is less chlorine available to kill germs," said Dr. Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality & Health Council. "Rinsing off for just 1 minute removes most of the dirt, sweat, or anything else on your body."

The 2019 Healthy Pools survey, released recently, was conducted online by Sachs Media Group and measured perceptions and behaviors related to swimming pools and public health. The organization interviewed 3,100 Americans adults on April 12 and 13. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent at the 95 percent confidence level and was nationally representative of American adults in terms of age, race, gender, income and region.

The survey comes as experts from the council, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance work to educate the public on healthy and safe swimming.

Along with not showering before entering a pool, 40 percent of Americans admitted they have peed in the pool as an adult. Urine reacts with chlorine, reducing the amount of chemicals available to kill germs.

The survey also revealed that 24 percent of Americans would go in a pool within one hour of having diarrhea, and 48 percent reported that they never shower before swimming. Most people did not know that pool chemistry can be impacted by personal care items such as makeup (53 percent) and deodorant (55 percent).

To check the chlorine and pH levels for a personal or public pool, the council is offering free pool tests kits through its 15th annual Healthy Pools campaign on its website. In addition, the agency is urging people to check local and state health departments for pool inspection records. While the records for several states are available on the council's website, Michigan is not on the list.

But there's hope that records will be more readily available for public inspection in the near future, according to the state.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, formerly the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said in a statement:

"Data on Michigan swimming pool inspections is available through open records requests with the state. EGLE currently is working through the bid process for an IT solution that would help make this information more readily available."

"Pools are great places to have fun with friends and family," said Jim Mock, interim executive director of the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance. "A trained pool operator can get the mix of pool chemicals healthy and safe, and swimmers can help keep it right by swimming healthy."