—How to protect against cryptosporidium and other chlorine-resistant organisms in your pool
Have you noticed more news reports chronicling outbreaks of dangerous microorganisms in public swimming pools? One pathogen, in particular, cryptosporidium, has been rearing its ugly head with greater frequency, passing along—yuck—gastrointestinal distress and other aggravating side effects.
Better known as “crypto,” this nasty bug is on the rise and wreaking havoc on swimming pool users. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that crypto outbreaks doubled in 2016 compared to only two years prior. The CDC also notes the unfortunate fact that you cannot neutralize crypto in swimming pools where chlorine is the sole water sanitizer. That’s right; chlorine is no match for crypto.
But here is some good news: Crypto infestations are far less common in backyard pools than they are in public ones. Even better, as a current or future pool owner, you have highly effective alternative sanitizing treatments readily available—most notably ozone generators and ultraviolet (UV) light systems.
These powerful technologies prove lethal to crypto, as well as to other chlorine-resistant pathogens such as E. Coli, Cyclospora, and Giardia Intestinalis.
What is crypto?
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. These invaders are found across the United States and around the world. They spread through the stool of infected people and animals, and they can survive in water, in grass, on the ground, and other surfaces for extended periods of time.
What makes crypto a real tough bug to kill is its miniature “suit of armor.” In contrast to many other microscopic organisms, crypto features a protective outer shell.
This exterior barrier allows the pathogen to survive outside of the body for longer periods of time. And of particular concern to swimmers and pool owners, this shell makes the parasite resistant to chlorine—the most widely used swimming pool disinfectant.
Why is crypto a threat to you and your family?
Gross-out warning: The most common symptom of a cryptosporidiosis infection is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms may include fever, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and stomach cramps or pain.
Your small intestines are the body part most likely to fall victim to crypto and its ill effects. However, an infection can also spread to other areas of your digestive or respiratory tracts, and can cause fever, coughing, and other symptoms associated with respiratory illness.
Some people stricken with crypto may exhibit zero signs or symptoms of the disease. Others who were sick and already recovered may now appear fine. But they’re not: While they may look and feel okay, their symptom-free status does pose risks. Infected, but healthy-looking people can be carriers; they unknowingly bring hidden contaminants into the water when joining others in a pool.
The lesson here is this: If you caught crypto, and now feel better, you may still be infectious. Invisible contagion is one reason why signs at many public pools warn people who have had diarrhea to stay out of the water for up to two weeks.
How do these parasites invade a swimming pool?
Largely due to the sheer volume of swimmers who use them, you are far more likely to be exposed to crypto in a busy public facility than in your backyard pool. Several invasion routes allow crypto to enter pool water, and the most common one is from sewage or human or animal feces that end up in the water.
Infected swimmers can introduce the parasite to pools, as can your pets. For example, even if your dog isn’t infected internally, your pet can still carry crypto into the water. How? Pets may walk through ground or grass with crypto-laden feces or fecal residue. If that fecal matter sticks to their paws, and they take a dip in the pool, the unwanted microbes hitch a ride into the swimming environment.
On a similar note, water fowl can also become culprits in spreading crypto. If you swim in a pool near a wooded area, keep an eye out for ducks. They could have come in contact with crypto as they trek through contaminated ground. If they pick up parasites on their webbed feet and then hop into the pool, crypto can take hold in your pool.
How does crypto infect you—and how can you cut the risk of catching it?
Once crypto gets into the pool, anyone can catch it by accidentally swallowing the infected water. Think that does not happen much? One environmental and occupational health expert reports that on average, adults swallow half an ounce of water each time they swim; for children, it’s about twice as much!
Now, even if you are careful to avoid directly ingesting contaminated pool water, your hands come in contact with it. Then, when you unconsciously touch your hands to your mouth (we all do it—especially kids), enough water can make its way into your mouth and then into your body.
Occasionally, guests to your home may not realize they’re putting others at risk when they take a dip. Anyone who recently had gastrointestinal problems can be an unwitting carrier. Crypto can also spread from a parent who forgot to wash their hands after changing a diaper—who then jumps in the pool.
Another less likely, but possible route: Anybody who has handled or petted an infected animal—including your pooch—can pass the pathogen into the pool water.
So, with these avenues of disease transmission in mind, observe these tips to help reduce the odds of catching a painful bout of crypto.
• Steer clear of the pool if you recently fought gastrointestinal distress—even if you feel fine now. The same goes for your family members and any guests.
• Exercise caution when letting your animals access the pool. If your pet has been outside your yard or anywhere where his paws could have picked up feces residue, be extra cautious; wash off his paws before allowing him in the pool.
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling your pets before your enter a pool. Ditto for changing diapers.
• Keep pool water—and wet fingers—away from your mouth! Teach your children to do the same, but do recognize that realistically, avoiding accidental water swallows is an uphill battle.
• For even more timely tips and advice go to this industry alert page.
How to beat crypto using ozone/UV.
Many pool owners take a “better-safe-than-sorry” approach by adding advanced sanitizing equipment like ozone generators and UV lights to their new or existing pool. After all, the best way to beat crypto is never to catch it in the first place. That means preventing it from ever gaining a foothold in your swimming pool.
For that, you need more than mere chlorine. With safe, gentle disinfection power, ozone generators and ultraviolet germicidal lights are your best weapon in the war against crypto. And as an added benefit, they deliver soft, sparkling pool water without harsh chemical irritants.
First, let’s look at ozone. It’s a form of oxygen (O2) that contains an extra atom (O3). Also known as triatomic oxygen, ozone occurs in nature. For example, after a lightning storm, you may have smelled its fresh, pleasant scent outside.
Ozone molecules serve as a superb disinfectant that attacks crypto, as well as other disease-carrying organisms such as E. coli and salmonella. Trusted to purify bottled drinking water since 1982, ozone is also a champion at the Olympics; event officials have sanitized competition swimming pools with it at every Game since 1984.
For backyard pools, ozone is at work for tens of thousands of homeowners around the country. Homeowners who opt for pool ozone systems enjoy proven technology that delivers shiny, virtually “polished” water that feels silky soft to the touch.
Conveniently, an ozone generator does its job within the pool equipment—not out in the water where you swim. After the ozone equipment treats the water, the molecules quickly dissipate.
Best of all, ozone kills more microscopic organisms than a traditional sanitizer like chlorine. But unlike chlorine, ozone does not cause the aggravating side effects—sore eyes, itchy skin, and harsh, lung-irritating odor—that often come with this caustic pool chemical.
Keep in mind that pools still need a very small dose of chlorine to tackle certain contaminants that could make their way into the water. However, by relying on an ozone generator to do the majority of water treatment, you can cut chlorine use and costs by up to 80 percent.
For unparalleled disinfection power, couple an ozone system with UV germicidal light in your pool equipment. This duo will produce a one-twopunch to take out contaminants and ensure a friendly swim environment.
Like ozone, UV light goes to work inside the equipment—versus inside the pool. Water passes through a chamber containing special UV bulbs. The treatment involves intense germicidal rays that blast the cell membranes—neutralizing hazards like crypto.
And like ozone systems, UV light leaves no unwanted after effects. UV also boasts a long track record for safe, effective use. Movie theaters use it to filter the air, hospitals use it to sterilize equipment, and food companies use it to more safely process a variety of items from meat to fruit juice.
With Ozone and UV light working in tandem, they deliver incomparable results for purification: Together, they annihilate an array of pathogens with a 99.9 percent potential disinfection rate!
More effective purification with multiple benefits
The advantages of a backyard retreat far outweigh membership in a public pool, especially when it comes to your family’s health. You are far more likely to pick up a waterborne illness swimming with throngs of strangers than you are splashing around with your kids at home.
That privacy doesn’t mean you can ignore the crypto threat. Your ideal route is to take every step to safeguard the health of family members and guests using your pool.
So take advantage of state-of-the-art treatments like ozone and UV. Whether you are selecting equipment for a new pool you’re building or an old one you are updating, these systems provide a number of benefits: They eliminate parasitic health hazards—including harmful crypto, and they allow you to slash chlorine use. Your skin, eyes, ears, nose, and lungs will be grateful!