Summer is approaching, and that usually means fun in the sun at pools, waterparks, and water playgrounds. However, according to the CDC, it also means an outbreak of the parasitic protozoa Cryptosporidium and a danger of toxic gas.
In the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC released their findings based on an investigation into this parasite in aquatic facilities covering the last 2 years. It finds that outbreaks of the gastrointestinal illness, Cryptosporidiosis, have doubled between 2014 and 2016.
“Cryptosporidiosis is a nationally notifiable gastrointestinal illness caused by parasitic protozoa of the genus Cryptosporidium, which can cause profuse, watery diarrhea that can last up to 2–3 weeks in immunocompetent patients and can lead to life-threatening wasting and malabsorption in immunocompromised patients.”1
The parasite is often spread when people come into contact with fecal matter of an infected person through shared-use pools and aquatic facilities. Even with a properly chlorinated pool, the parasite can stay alive for a long time: “The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants.”2
Toxic Gas Danger
The CDC also released a investigative report on Thursday that detailed the danger of toxic chlorine gas.
In June 2015, at a public pool, swimmers began experiencing toxic gas symptoms (vomiting, coughing, and eye irritation) after chlorine equipment failed. Half of the 30 swimmers were treated on the scene, while the other half were transported to local emergency rooms.
“Environmental staff members determined that a chemical controller malfunction had allowed sodium hypochlorite and muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) solutions to be injected into the main pool recirculation line while the recirculation pump was off; when the main recirculation pump was restarted, toxic chlorine gas (generated by the reaction of concentrated sodium hypochlorite and muriatic acid) was released into the pool.”3
To prevent these dangerous situations, the CDC recommends ongoing maintenance for pool chemical equipment and storage, and training pool staff on chemical safety, and to be able to identify chemical exposure.