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Your Public Pool Probably Has Feces in It

In the majority of public pools health officials found E. coli and other fecal bacteria

smithsonian.com

Weee, feces! Photo: Jtu

The public pool may as well be renamed the public poo. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that the majority of public swimming holes have feces in them—brought to the pool on people’s unwashed skin or deposited by those who lack self-control. And along with fecal matter come illness-inducing bacteria.

Last year, the CDC tested the water from 161 public pools around Atlanta, where the CDC’s main offices are located. In 95 of them, or 58 percent, they found the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria that causes rashes or ear infections. In 59 percent of pools they found E. coli, another sign that feces had been in the water. The CDC puts it delicately:

Fecal material can be introduced when it washes off of swimmers’ bodies or through a formed or diarrheal fecal incident in the water. The risk for pathogen transmission increases if swimmers introduce diarrheal feces.

Though the CDC only tested pools in Atlanta, they’re pretty sure that the results apply to the whole country. As the CDC tells the Associated Press, outbreaks of diarrhea are common across the country. Along with taking a pre-swim shower, the health agency wants to remind you that it’s probably a good idea to not drink the water.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Romans Did All Sorts of Weird Things in The Public Baths—Like Getting Their Teeth Cleaned
E. Coli Can Survive the Freezing Cold Winter Hidden in Manure

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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