Bathing in public pools? Sounds gross, but a new survey says half of us do it

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - "My grandma lived in a condo that had a pool so we went swimming all the time there. Then she really wanted us to have our lifeguard certification, so my sister and I got that," says Abby Rundquist, the Aquatics Coordinator with Family Wellness.

Going to the pool can be an escape from the summer heat, a way for kids to make some memories and money, or it can be a way to get a good work out.

"It's not hard on your joints because it's just in the water – you're not jumping on land or running on the hard cement or anything," Rundquist says. "It's really an anaerobic exercise so it can be really intense for the people that want that kind of exercise or it can be lower intensity for anyone that wants that kind of exercise as well."

One thing pools shouldn't be used for is bathing. But a new survey finds 51% of American adults use pools as communal bathtubs. That means more than half of all Americans jump in the pool to wash off - sometimes after exercise or yard work. And health leaders say that's a problem.

"Obviously, this is not something that we recommend," says Grant Larson, Fargo Cass Public Health's Director of Environmental Health. "Swimming pools are intended to be used as recreational facilities, not used for daily bathing regiment."

Even with chemicals and filters, pools can be overwhelmed when too many people bring in too many contaminants.

"We just don't want to introduce any foreign matter – whether it bacteria, whether it be dirt on people's skin, sweat and that kind of stuff. Because in a pool, there's basically free chlorine that ties to the foreign matter or foreign objects and that turns into total chlorine - then it doesn't make the pool as sanitary," Larson says. "If there's too many people who are overloading a pool so then there's not enough chlorine available to take care of the foreign matter – then what happens is the pool gets out of balance."

And that can lead to unsafe conditions for all swimmers.

"When you jump in a pool, you're getting exposure from your nose, from your ears, from your mouth. And if the water's not sanitary – it's not meeting our minimum standards – then you're exposing yourself where you could be comprised or something could be introduced to you whether it's a rash or foreign matter," says Larson.

So before you suit up this summer, experts say remember to rinse off first so pools remain safe and everyone can just keep swimming.

"It's just really freeing, I think," Rundquist says.

The CDC recommends you take matters into your own hands by checking the water with a test strip for the correct free chlorine and bromine concentration levels. The national 'Healthy Pools Campaign' is offering free pool test kits so you can check pool water before you dive in.

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