Submitted by Carrie Stefanson, senior consultant, Communications and Public Affairs

With warmer weather on the way, staying cool in the pool is the cool thing to do to keep your body from overheating. So is showering before jumping into the pool.

Fraser Health’s 60 Environmental Health Officers will inspect 455 public swimming pools, 312 hot tubs and 90 spray parks and wading pools this year to ensure the water quality meets provincial guidelines and facilities are safe for all users.

“With pool water, there’s a lot of chemistry involved,” says Timothy Millard, manager of Environmental Health. "If the pH gets too high, the water becomes too alkaline and reduces the effectiveness of chlorine — one of the primary pool chemicals that kills pathogens."

“Our Environmental Health Officers have a chemistry or biology background, which is helpful because we understand how to prevent the spread of illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses,” says Timothy.

Speaking of bacteria, the best way to keep yourself and your pool pals safe is by showering immediately prior to entering the pool or hot tub. Skin cells, body oils, lotions, shampoo and makeup bind with chlorine to make chloramines which are less effective in disinfecting the pool water. Chloramines are often what irritates skin, eyes and the respiratory tract.

“The red eyes and itchy skin that you might get from swimming in a pool are probably due to chloramines, not chlorine,” says Timothy. “Before going in the pool, a good shower and repeated showers if you’re re-applying sunscreen will help reduce the buildup of chloramines in pool water.”

Along with water conditions, Environmental Health Officers inspect pools for other hazards including loose or missing drain covers, broken tiles, unsecure ladders, missing depth markings and gaps in fencing, if required.

“We take an educational approach to enforcement with pool operators, but safety always comes first and any imminent hazards — like not being able to see the bottom of a pool — can result in immediate closure,” Timothy says.

One thing you may not know about hot tubs open to the public: They must have a clock and water fountain — the clock to monitor your time in the hot tub and the fountain to help prevent dehydration.

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