Preventing Health Problems Associated with Bathing Waters

Description

Bathing waters include beaches, lakes, rivers and artificial pools such as indoor and outdoor pools and spas. Bathing waters can be contaminated by microorganisms (bacteria, parasites, viruses) or other pollutants. This water contamination causes some health problems which may occur when:

  • Someone swallows contaminated water
  • Skin comes into contact with contaminated water
  • Someone breathes chloramines released by the addition of chlorine to water

To learn more about these health problems, read Health Problems Associated with Bathing Waters.

General Precautions When Bathing

When bathing, you must take precautions:

  • To avoid contaminating water
  • To avoid health problems caused by microorganisms or other pollutants in the water

Make sure you take the necessary precautions:

  • Do not swallow the water in which you are bathing
  • Avoid bathing if the following applies:
    • You have diarrhea or nausea
    • You are suffering from a contagious skin infection  or have an open wound
  • Avoid eating a lot before bathing in order to reduce your chances of vomiting in the water
  • Put your baby in a diaper especially designed for bathing and change it often. Take young children to the toilet regularly
  • Inform the person in charge of where you are bathing of any incident or problem that could affect water quality 

Special Precautions Depending on where you Bathe

Beaches

  • Apply sunscreen half an hour before bathing
  • If possible, bathe in places where water quality is analyzed regularly and results of the analyses displayed. This applies to all beaches registered with the Programme Environnement-Plage This link opens a new window (beach environment program, available in French only)
  • Check with people in charge of the beach that there are no blue-green algae and that there are no other  problems
  • If possible, avoid beaches where cases of swimmer’s itch have been reported. If you are not sure, always take the following precautions:
    • When you get out of the water, dry your skin by rubbing it vigorously with a towel
    • Do not feed waterfowl. Their feces may contain bacteria or parasites such as cercarias (small larvae that can cause swimmer’s itch) which can contaminate water
    • If you have symptoms of swimmer’s itch, inform the people in charge of where you bathed

Indoor pools and other artificial pools, including indoor spas and hot tubs

  • Go to the toilet just before bathing
  • Shower with soap for at least one minute and rinse well. That way you limit the amount of contaminants (sweat, secretions, skin particles, cosmetics residue, urine and feces) you can leave in the water
  • Avoid putting your head underwater in a spa. You are less at risk of being infected if water does not go in your mouth and ears
  • Respect the number of bathers allowed in the spa. The amount of microorganisms in the water and the risk of infection increase with the number of bathers

Outdoor pools and other artificial outdoor pools

  • Apply sunscreen half an hour before bathing
  • Go to the toilet just before bathing
  • Have a shower without soap for at least one minute. Showering with no soap rids your skin of surplus sunscreen and other contaminants. It limits water contamination while leaving enough sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun
  • Avoid eating and drinking near the bathing area

Regulation Respecting Water Quality in Swimming Pools and other Artificial Pools

Bathers cannot rely on the clarity of water to assess quality in swimming pools and spas. The ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques has therefore established guidelines to ensure water quality in public pools and spas. These guidelines appear in the Règlement sur la qualité de l’eau des piscines et autres bassins artificiels (Regulation Respecting Water Quality in Swimming Pools and other Artificial Pools, in French only).

Under this regulation, persons managing all public pools or spas should conduct daily verification of chlorine levels in the water. Also, they must collect water samples and have them analyzed to see if the water is contaminated by microorganisms. The frequency of water sampling and analysis depends on the type of pool:

  • Outdoor pools: every 2 weeks
  • Indoor pools: every 4 weeks

The results of these tests must be displayed such that bathers can consult them.

If test results are not displayed or are unavailable, you have no way of knowing if the water in the pool is of good quality, which puts you at greater risk of catching various infections.

Also, some bacteria are resistant to water treatment. Legionella, for instance, cannot always be completely eliminated from water. It is therefore recommended that you avoid bathing in pools where test results are unavailable. This recommendation is particularly important for the following:

  • People with a very weak immune system
  • People receiving cancer treatment
  • People who have had an organ transplant

These people must especially avoid bathing in spas because water temperature is higher, which can promote the growth of Legionella or other bacteria.

Useful Website

Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau des piscines et autres bassins artificiels This link opens a new window.(Regulations on the quality of water in swimming pools and other artificial pools, available in French only)
Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

Last update: February 14, 2017 4:00 PM

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