The CDC reports a staggering 493 outbreaks associated with treated recreational water in 46 U.S. states and Puerto Rico from 2000–2014. Yearly, approximately 200,000 individuals seek emergency care for injuries associated with swimming pools, and nearly 700 experience fatal drowning in the U.S. alone. Additionally, a five-state study of inspection data showed that 12.3% of routine inspections of aquatic facilities resulted in immediate closure due to violations seriously threatening public health. Without adoption of a uniform code, dissimilar codes proliferate, while recreational water illness and drowning rates remain tragically high.
While helpful, the more than 85 environmental health codes relative to the design, construction, and operation of public swimming pools offer no cohesive national public health standard and potentially thwart public health efforts.
With this in mind, the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF) is recommending that all state, territory, and local health departments; aquatic facilities; and the industry at large evaluate and adopt all or part of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), with the objective of protecting the future of aquatic facilities and their staff and patrons.
NSPF’s endorsement proceeds from the rationale that “the current redundant system of updating, maintaining, administering, and enforcing local swimming pool and spa code represents waste of government resources, misuse of taxpayer dollars, and misguided efforts of the facilities, manufacturers, designers, builders, and suppliers engaged in updating and complying with inconsistent codes,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., NSPF CEO.
The nation’s only all-inclusive model pool code, the MAHC is based on scientific data and best practices gathered by public health and aquatics industry experts, making it more expedient for jurisdictions to justify, adopt, and implement. Unlike legislation, the MAHC is voluntarily adopted, wholly or in part, and driven by expertise. It is free, publicly accessible, and backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as endorsed by the Commercial Energy Specialists (CES), Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO), and National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).
The MAHC 3rd Edition was released on July 18, 2018, addressing emerging public health topics, such as Legionella decontamination and the design and operation of floatation tanks, as well as ongoing challenges like natatorium noise reduction. The updates implement changes approved during the 2017 Vote on the Code and submitted to CDC by the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC). Moving forward, the CMAHC will be working with CDC to update the MAHC every three years, with the next Vote on the Code conference to be held in 2020.
The CMAHC is currently seeking members and sponsors to help continue to move the MAHC forward and support adoption. Volunteers are also needed to fill vital roles in the proposed submission review and discussion process.