The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is mandated to ensure that public swimming pools are safe for swimmers. This mandate is carried out by the DPH and local environmental health professionals through regulations and inspections. In 2015, legislation was introduced proposing to reduce the authority of the DPH to inspect certain pool types (apartments, subdivision, condominiums) and thus reduce regulatory protections in place for swimmers. To ensure that the DPH had current information on the risks associated with pools, the EH team, with assistance from a graduate student, analyzed inspection data to evaluate risk factors associated with these pool types and summarized drownings and waterborne disease outbreaks (WBDOs).
[Photo: Dr. Chris Rustin]
Pool inspection data (n=4,441 pools) for 2014 were retrieved from the Environmental Health Information System (EHIS) of the DPH. Data from the 2010 Census and epidemiological data on drownings and water-borne disease outbreaks (WBDOs) were also evaluated. Data were stratified by public health district, type/number of pools and analyzed for selected violations of health risk factors (pH, barriers, disinfectant residual). Drownings and WBDOs were described and summarized.
Approximately 55 percent of inspected pools were for apartments, condominiums, and subdivisions. These pool types were consistently cited by inspectors for the selected risk factors and ranked in the top five for these violations. In 2013, children aged 1-17 had the highest percentage (30 percent) of deaths from drowning. In 2001-2014, there were 28 WBDOs, with 39 percent occurring at public pool venues.
Data from this research provided information on risks associated with pools and supported the importance of inspection programs for public swimming pools. The data were used to inform policy makers on the risks associated with the pool venues under legislative review. These data, combined with other risk factor information, were utilized by the DPH to inform training needs and to reinforce public health messaging on protecting swimmer’s health.
“An assessment of data related to inspections of risk factors for public swimming pools,” was published in the Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association.
Dr. Chris Rustin, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health Georgia Southern University was a mentoring co-author.