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CDC study: half of all hot tubs violate health codes.

More than half the commercial spas in a recently released study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control suffer from chemical, mechanical and maintenance health-code infractions.

"We need to do a better job of taking care of the spas in this country," said Michael Beach, Ph.D., the CDC's researcher on the study.

The Atlanta-based CDC gathered information on 5,209 commercial spa inspections occurring between May and September 2002 in six areas: Florida and Wyoming; the counties of Los Angeles (Calif.) and Allegheny (Pa.); and the cities of St. Paul and St. Louis (Minn.). These areas were chosen because they keep computerized records, which are easy to compile. From the data, the CDC determined the number and nature of the infractions.

According to the data, inspectors found at least one problem on 56.8 percent of their visits, with a total of 5,378 violations documented. Eleven percent of the inspections resulted in the immediate closure of spas. The highest number of closures occurred in campgrounds and hotel/motel spas.

Roughly half the violations (50.7 percent) were related to water chemistry. The rate of incorrect pH levels ranged from 14.1 to 162 percent in each location.

Circulation-system violations accounted for 32.2 percent of the total. And policy/management violations comprised 17.1 percent.

The data weren't kind to spa operators: Approximately 23 percent lacked the required training and nearly 13 percent of operators practiced inadequate record-keeping.

The CDC concluded that operators should be better trained and that government entities should keep computerized records to better track trends and crises. "Public health officials need to use these data to help plan their inspections," Beach said.

The agency also stated that the public should be better educated about the hazards of poorly-maintained spa water and how to prevent it. For instance, signs should encourage users to shower before stepping into spas.

There is some question as to how well this study represents commercially-operated spas nationwide. Close to 90 percent of the inspections occurred in Florida. The information provided by each location was not uniform.

Tom Lachocki believes the picture might be worse than the study suggests. Not only do the areas studied keep the best records, but they also have some of the most stringent training and maintenance requirements, said the CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo. "What's the condition in those jurisdictions around the country that don't require their operators to be trained?" Lachocki asked.

He said the study, combined with a similar one on commercial pools in 2002, confirmed what the aquatics industry already knows: Spas and wading pools are the most difficult bodies of water to maintain. To assist commercial clients in sustaining the right chemical residuals, Lachocki suggested that designers and builders encourage their clients to use automatic chemical feeders and controllers.

Shabnam Mogharabi contributed to this story.

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Title Annotation:Newsroom; Operators; United States. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention
Author:Robledo, Rebecca
Publication:Aquatics International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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