Gross: More Than Half of Adults Use Pools Like Bathtubs

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Bath Tub

Every year around this time it seems there’s a story in the news about swimming pools and spas focusing on something that’s, well, rather gross.

Here’s this year’s story: According to a survey presented by the Water Quality and Health Council, 51% Americans who use pools and spas use them as a substitute for showers/bathing, like taking a dip after exercise or yardwork. The study goes on to say that even though 64% of Americans know pool chemicals don’t eliminate the need to shower, people continue to do it anyway.

Sachs Media Group conducted the survey online, which was intended to measure perceptions and behaviors related to swimming pools and public health. The organization interviewed 3,100 Americans adults.

Along with not showering before entering a pool, 40% of those respondents admitted urinating in the pools as adults. The survey also revealed that 24% of Americans would go in a pool within one hour of having diarrhea, and 48% reported that they never shower before swimming. Most people did not know that pool chemistry can be affected by personal care items such as makeup (53%) and deodorant (55%).

Numerous print and online publications, as well as local TV and radio stations across the country have picked up the story, which is typically published in the spirit of “getting ready for summer.” For those of us who advocate the healthy use of pools and spas, this species of coverage can be more than a little frustrating, largely so because such reporting looks into personal behavior that is beyond anyone else’s control. Other recommending that bathers take care of personal needs outside the pool, there’s not much that pool operators, managers, lifeguards, swim instructors and even parents can do about it. Humans are going to do what they are going to do.

But within this issue of bather cleanliness, maybe there is, in fact, a call to action worth noting, and it’s all about outdoor showers. I’ve personally long believed that showers are an all-too-often ignored feature in landscapes that contain pools. Yes, many commercial facilities are required to have them, but they often only dispense cold water and how frequently those showers are used is anybody’s guess.

That’s why I think in both commercial and residential pools designers and contractors should be urging their clients to include warm-water outdoor showers. It should be a feature similar to a shade structure, outdoor kitchen or fire feature, another part of the outdoor lifestyle. Shower fixture manufacturers offer some wonderfully beautiful designs and why not add the outdoor shower, a stylish and comfortable outdoor shower that’s relatively close to the water’s edge, to the list of project menu items.

Yes, it’s a personal choice on the clients’ behalf in residential settings and in high-use commercial pools the shower is all too easy to ignore. It stands to reason, however, that if bathers know they’re protecting their own health and the health of others and ultimately enhancing their swimming and bathing experience by rinsing off before they enter the water – and most important have a warm shower immediately accessible – some will shift their behavior.

Also, when both commercial operators and homeowners realize that pools and especially spas are easier, and less expensive, to maintain when users practice good hygiene, they are far more likely to invest in attractive, convenient and comfortable showers, and perhaps use signage to encourage showering before swimming or whatever-ing in the water.

If the numbers in Water Quality and Health Council survey do, in fact, hold water, there’s everything to gain by including information about bather hygiene in our industry’s messaging. From a business perspective, it may well be that outdoor showers can become another source of revenue for new construction projects and renovations, as well.

I’m not sure if cleanliness is really and truly next to godliness, as the saying goes, but when it comes to using pools and spas, it certainly makes common sense to rinse off before taking a dip.

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