As some swimming pools reopen, swimmers can take comfort in knowing that the water they’re in should pose little risk of coronavirus infection.
However, there could be risks at indoor pools. Crowds, poor air circulation and contaminated surfaces such as handrails can be a concern, according to Ernest Blatchley III, a professor of environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Blatchley specializes in research on how chlorine in swimming pools reacts with contaminants. Those might include human body fluids, medicines and personal care products.
“There are no data to show how the coronavirus responds to chlorine. But we do know that chlorine effectively inactivates similar viruses,” Blatchley said in a university news release.
“In the U.S., the general guidance for keeping pools properly disinfected is maintaining a free chlorine concentration between 1 and 5 milligrams per liter. If a pool has that concentration, there would be very little infective novel coronavirus in the water,” he explained.
However, the air around an indoor pool is likely “to pose similar risks of coronavirus spread as other indoor spaces,” he pointed out.
“A person’s risk would not be affected by the water. The most relevant issue would be contamination of the air or surfaces in these facilities,” said Blatchley. He has studied pool water treatment and chemistry for more than 20 years.
Dr. Nagpal’s advice for those headed to the pool:
“Maintaining social distance, not crowding out and if you’re seating by the poolside, make sure that there’s a 6 feet distance between you and the other person. So, between all these measures, I think, again your risk will never be zero, but it can be mitigated as much as possible.”
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