CDC Introduces Federal Public Pool Safety Codes

The nation’s first comprehensive guidelines for public pool operations have been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was published with the collaboration of more than 150 experts (the CDCP, state and local public health departments, the aquatics sector and academic experts) and review of more than 4,400 public comments.

The MAHC offers directions for public pool operators to follow to help ensure swimmers remain healthy and safe. State and local health departments can in-turn use these guidelines when creating or updating their own public pool regulations, which should help standardize procedures nationally. The code provides advice on safe operation of public aquatic facilities, including their design and construction, water filtration and disinfection, safety, ventilation and air quality and staff training.

Per the CDC, all public swimming pool codes and legislation have been historically developed at the state or local level, leading to a great variability in standards. As a result, each locality is required to spend significant amounts of time and resources to updating pool codes regularly. The MAHC is intended to serve as a blueprint for a healthy and safe public swimming environment, and was designed to both help reduce the amount of overhead required by localities in addressing these concerns, as well as bring their resultant policies more in line at the national level.

Healthy Swimming Fast Facts

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Swimming in the U.S.

In the United States during 2009, there were approximately 301 million swimming visits each year by persons over the age of six. While swimming is the fourth most popular recreational activity in the United States, it is the most popular recreational activity for children and teens (ages 7-17).

Swimming Pools & Hot Tubs/Spas

  • There are 10.4 million residential and 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States;

  • Almost 1 in 8 (12.1% or 13,532 of 111,487) routine pool inspections conducted during 2008 identified serious violations that threatened public health and safety and resulted in an immediate closure;

  • More than 1 in 10 (10.7% or 12,917 of 120,975) routine pool inspections identified pool disinfectant level violations. Chlorine and other pool disinfectants are the primary barrier to the spread of germs in the water in which we swim;

  • There are over 7.3 million hot tubs in operation in the United States;

  • About half (56.8%) of spas are in violation of local environmental health ordinances, and about 1 in 9 spas required immediate closure (11%).

Germs & Outbreaks

  • A total of 81 recreational water–associated outbreaks affecting at least 1,326 persons were reported to CDC for 2009-2010;

  • Cryptosporidium (or Crypto) is an extremely chlorine-tolerant parasite that can survive in a properly chlorinated pool for 3.5–10.6 days;

  • Of 49 recreational water–associated outbreaks of gastroenteritis during 2009-2010, 55% were caused by Crypto;

  • Of 57 gastroenteritis outbreaks associated with treated (for example, chlorinated) recreational water venues, 84% were caused by Crypto;

  • More than 1 in 5 (21.6%) of American adults do not know swimming while ill with diarrhea can heavily contaminate water in which we swim and make other swimmers sick.

Injuries & Drowning

  • In 2008, almost 4,600 persons visited an emergency department for pool chemical-associated injuries. The most common injury diagnoses were poisoning, which includes ingestion of pool chemicals as well as inhalation of vapor, fumes, or gases and dermatitis/conjunctivitis. More than half of the injuries occurred at a residence;

  • Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children aged 1–4 years;

  • Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 5–9 years;

  • More than 60% of fatal drownings of children under 4 year-of age occur in swimming pools.

Additional Resources about the MAHC, Recreational Water Safety and Healthy Swimming

Please note that a Microsoft Word version of the MAHC Code and/or Annex can be provided to potential users on request by emailing MAHC@cdc.gov.

At The Ultimate in Pool Care, we care greatly about both your enjoyment and safety in and around your pool and spa. If you’d like us to conduct a safety survey of your pool and/or spa, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 631-242-2667, or via our Contact page.

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