If you have a pool, you have what the law calls “an attractive nuisance.” In other words, people — especially children — will be attracted to your pool and may access or use it with or without your knowledge. If they do so, they could get hurt, and that could mean liability on your part.
The obvious danger is drowning, especially among kids with limited swimming skills. But there are other dangers in your pool, too. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that, between 2000 and 2014, over 27,000 people were sickened by contaminated water in pools, spas and playgrounds and eight of them died.
On top of waterborne illness, people can also be sickened by pool chemicals. The CDC recently published a study finding that, between 2015 and 2017, there were over 13,500 ER visits in the U.S. related to pool chemicals.
Drowning prevention starts with controlled access
The risk of drowning is the most serious pool-related issue. The CDC says that about 10 Americans die each day from drowning, and it is the No. 1 cause of death for young children.
First and foremost, prevent unsupervised children from getting near your pool. Surround your pool with a fence that isolates it from the house and has an automatically locking gate latch.
Supervise all children near the water, and that means keeping your eyes on the swimmers, not on your phone or book. To stay fresh, designate various people to take turns watching for danger. Stay within arm’s reach of weak swimmers, who should also wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets, not floaties. Finally, if you have a pool, learn CPR.
Test your water regularly for diseases and parasites
You should always keep your pool chemicals at the recommended levels, but be aware that chlorine alone won’t kill everything that could make you or your child sick.
Cryptosporidiosis, or “crypto,” is a common parasite that causes diarrhea. It is responsible for about 89% of pool-related waterborne illness. It isn’t easily killed by chlorine and can live for days in a well-maintained pool. Norovirus and giardia can also survive chlorine. In poorly maintained pools, you may encounter legionella, which causes Legionnaire’s disease.
If you own a pool, you won’t be able to tell if you have these bugs without a test kit, and you should perform the test at least once a year.
Otherwise, train kids never to swallow water from pools, hot tubs or water parks. Also, shower both before you enter the pool and after you’re done swimming. And never let sick kids swim, especially if they’ve had diarrhea.
Keep pool chemicals up and away from kids’ reach
As with any chemical that could irritate or poison someone, store pool chemicals on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet. Make sure that kids can’t climb to the shelf.
When doing pool maintenance, wear protective equipment like a mask, goggles and gloves.
Be aware that chlorine comes into contact with skin cells, sweat, urine, dirt, makeup and skin care products, among other things, it creates a substance called a chloramine. When chloramines are inhaled, they can provoke coughing and wheezing or even asthma. A strong chlorine or chemical smell in the pool area often indicates the presence of chloramines.
At home, do your best to prevent chloramines by keeping your pool clean. Insist that everyone shower before entering the pool to limit the amount of material they slough into the pool. And, train kids to take a bathroom break every hour to prevent urination in the pool.