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How the Swimming Pool Can Make You Sick 

By The Husband and Wife Law Team on September 12, 2020

What is a recreational water illness or RWI? Well, it is a sickness caused by germs that are transmitted through water, such as public pools and waterparks. And there are a lot of germs, even in chlorinated swimming pools. They have scary names like Cryptosporidium and Shingella, and can cause extreme discomfort, dehydration, and even hospitalization.

So, let’s dive in and learn more about this danger lurking in the swimming pool…

How RWIs Can Affect People

RWIs have been increasing in the past two decades, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and “nearly 500 disease outbreaks [have been] linked to pools, hot tubs/spas, and water playgrounds occurred from 2000 to 2014.” It is said that a “crypto” outbreak can sicken thousands of people.

The federal government provides a Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), which contains voluntary guidelines for the design, operation, maintenance, and management of public pools. In addition, states and local municipalities regulate their own pool owners, and the Arizona Department of Health Services oversees Arizona. This is all done in an effort to minimize outbreaks, but cases still occur.

Victims of RWIs may have:

Gastrointestinal illness: Diarrhea is the most common complaint, and several different pathogens, including Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli, may cause it. The biggest danger associated with this RWI is dehydration, so make sure the victim drinks plenty of fluids.

Ear infections: Swimmer’s ear is a common and painful illness after contaminated water gets into the ear canal, and disproportionately affects children. Itchiness, redness, swelling, pain, and pus are signs of an infected ear. An estimated $500 million is spent each year on U.S. healthcare costs associated with swimmer’s ear.

Respiratory infections: Legionnaire’s disease is the most famous recent example of this type of recreational water illness. The germ Legionella attacks the lungs, causing pneumonia or fluid buildup. Legionnaire’s disease can be fatal, so you should get immediate medical treatment for the victim. A person’s asthma can also be triggered by the chemicals used in pools.

Skin rashes: Also called “hot tub rash” or dermatitis, this RWI comes from your skin having contact with contaminated water for a long period of time. It can cause itching and pus-filled blisters. In warm water, chlorine breaks down faster, giving bacteria the chance to grow.

Chlorine can kill most bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, but not all of them. Cyptosporidium, in particular, is very tolerant of chlorine, so the pool’s chemical levels have to be just right. In addition, the management should do a manual scrubbing of the pool bottom, stairs, and the deck. No mold should be allowed to grow. In addition, requiring visitors to rinse off in a shower before entering the water can help prevent the spread of these diseases.


Who Is Liable for a RWI?

Part of the problem is that many public facilities (like waterparks) use one filtration system for several pools, and the chemicals take time to work. If the water is contaminated in one pool, it will be sucked up into the system and distributed to the other pools before the chemicals have a chance to cleanse it. Poor sanitation is another cause, and facilities should be testing their water regularly to prevent the spread of serious diseases. This is more than good business—it is a public health issue! State and local governments also have a duty to enforce these safety standards, as well as try to educate the public. Our home state of Arizona has even produced a digital children’s book to make sure our kids are as safe as possible.

When pool water is contaminated and causes illness in innocent victims, they should not be the ones left paying for it. Instead,

  • The pool owner
  • The pool management
  • The city or municipality
  • A staff member responsible for maintenance

May be responsible, and you need a team of Phoenix swimming pool accident lawyers to find out. Contact The Husband and Wife Law Team at (602) 457-6222. We offer a free consultation, and if we take your case, we work on a contingency-fee agreement, which means you pay nothing unless we win!

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