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Skin Irritations And Water Quality – Separating Facts From Fiction At STA’s recent National Conference, Robbie Phillips discussed the topical issue of water-related skin irritations to dispel some of the myths surrounding skin complaints encountered by swimming teachers and bathers. Here Robbie, STA’s lead pool plant tutor, explains the issue


ocial media is a popular forum for swimming teachers to debate and positively share all manner of subjects. Within these forums, however, we’ve also seen an increasing amount of swimming teachers talk about skin irritations relating to water quality, and asking fellow colleagues what the causes and best remedies are. The responses are always very encouraging, but sometimes not always accurate, hence the reason for this article – to separate facts from fiction.

BASIC CAUSES OF SKIN IRRITATIONS IN POOL WATER FACT – skin conditions which can be initiated and irritated by chlorinated / brominated water usually stem from poor pool maintenance. They can be caused by:

CHEMICAL POLLUTION IN THE POOL • Wrong pH – too high it affects skin pore excretions and if it’s too low can be aggressive to the skin • Low free chlorine levels – this allows infectious pathogens (bugs) to thrive • High free chlorine levels – they need to be very high, however, it may affect those with sensitive skin • High combined chlorine (used chlorine) levels – if high, this can cause irritation of the respiratory tract, possible skin irritation etc. Other chemicals commonly used in pools which can cause irritation are aluminium (flocculants), sulphates (pH control and flocculent chemicals), and bromine based chemicals (sometimes used in large leisure pools and spas which if uncontrolled can cause ‘Bromine Itch!’). Also, if uncontrolled total dissolved solids – chemical by-products e.g. cosmetics, oils, body excretions etc. Our recommendations: • Ideally use an automatically controlled

sites are inadequate cleaning procedures (pool and changing rooms), the state of the balance tank, a poor filtration system, the condition of the pool plant room and an incorrect water overflow system. Contaminated bathers and their towels i.e. lack of hygiene / showering controls are also a major contributing factor.


chemical dosing system with accepted testing regimes • Use free chlorine, which is the best proven disinfectant approved by STA and PWTAG • If using a manual system, then apply stringent testing and monitoring controls.

BIOLOGICAL POLLUTION Common examples of infection resulting from biological pollution are Pseudomonas, conjunctivitis, Otitis externa – ‘swimmers ear’, foot infections and viral infections. However, all of these are not easily transmitted in well maintained, disinfected and treated pools. They most often occur as a result of poorly maintained facilities. If bacteriological analysis of pool water is not performed on a regular basis, a pool operator will probably be unaware of the contamination problem until bathers start complaining of infection – pool rash or dermatitis. Those most likely to experience problems are bathers who spend lengthy amounts of time soaking in a spa, staff members (potentially by default swimming teachers) who wear wet bathing suits throughout their work shift, or patrons who swim regularly for extended periods of time.

VISIBLE INDICATORS Other clear visible indictors of contaminated

If bacteriological analysis of pool water is not performed on a regular basis, a pool operator will probably be unaware of the contamination problem until bathers start complaining of infection” 45_SPN_Oct_17_STA.indd 45

• Good housekeeping across all areas of the pool and changing rooms • Regular water testing • Regular microbiological testing by an approved laboratory • Education – make staff aware of basic pool plant principles, water testing, pH levels etc. • Enforce strict hygiene controls to bathers and staff • For teachers – ensure all swimming aids are thoroughly cleaned using dilute chlorinated water and not left in moist bags. The health and safety of the pool is the responsibility of the pool operator and you would expect suitably trained pool plant operator(s) to be managing the pool. But, for swim schools who hire these pools, it is imperative they don’t just trust that the pool is being fully maintained. Instead we advise swim school owners / teachers to learn basic pool plant principles and ask questions about: • Disinfectant and pH levels • Removal of slime or biofilm layers • Testing procedures etc. Finally, coming back to the most contentious question posted on social media about what solutions there are to ease skin irritations – our professional advice is do not use any creams before teaching as these can contribute to chemical pollution. Creams can also feed microorganisms and in most cases can build up scum. For further detailed information on any of the points discussed here please email or STA 01922 645097

SPN October 2017 45 27/09/2017 17:43

SPN (Swimming Pool News) October 2017  

Informing the pool and spa industry since 1959. Covering the UK's wet leisure market, SPN (Swimming Pool News) is the UK's longest running a...