CDC to Provide Guidance for State and Local Health Departments Through the Model Aquatic Health Code

Each year, there are over 300 million visits to swimming venues. In the United States, there is no federal regulatory authority responsible for disinfected aquatic facilities (e.g. swimming pools, water parks, etc.); all pool codes are developed, reviewed, and approved by state and/or local public health officials. As a result, there are no uniform, national standards governing the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools and other treated aquatic facilities. Thus, the code requirements for preventing and responding to recreational water illnesses (RWIs) can vary significantly among local and state agencies.

To address these issues, CDC, through an initial grant from the National Swimming Pool Foundation, is working with public health and industry representatives across the United States to prevent drowning, injuries, and the spread of recreational water illnesses at public swimming pools and spas by building a Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). The MAHC will serve as a model and guide for local and state agencies needing to update or implement swimming pool and spa code, rules, regulations, guidance, law, or standards governing the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, and other treated or disinfected aquatic facilities.

 Why is this important? 

  • Decreased efficacy of chlorine disinfection – over the past 30 years we have seen the emergence of chlorine-tolerant Cryptosporidium as the leading cause of GI illness outbreaks (58 outbreaks for 2007-2008, affecting >12,100 persons).
  • Deficits in pool operation – analysis of 120,000 pool inspections showed 1 of 8 pools were closed immediately for critical health and safety violations.
  • Continued drowning of swimmers – an average of 3,880 persons drowned each year during 2005–2009; death rates were highest among children less than 5 years old.

Potential Impact

Adoption of key elements of the MAHC guidance document is anticipated to have the following outcomes:

  • Prevent injuries, pathogen transmission, outbreaks, and associated costs.
  • Reduce pool code violations and closures related to imminent health and safety hazards.
  • Drive code standardization, uniformity, and adoption of minimum standards nationally as occurred with the FDA Model Food Code.
  • Expand public health impact by integrating into the international building and plumbing code creation and updating process.
  • Facilitate adoption of a systems-based, risk reduction approach to pool design and operation.
  • Promote incorporation of science-based practices into pool programs to provide uniform inspection forms and inspector training, improve data collection, and expand surveillance.
  • Expedite data-driven decision making and resource allocation.
  • Collect data to support utility and effectiveness of pool programs to prevent program elimination.
  • Decrease resources expended in creating and updating pool codes.

To learn more visit the CDC’s MAHC Website 

About Andy Roszak

Andrew Roszak serves as the Senior Director for Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness and Catastrophic Response at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Twitter: @AndyRoszak

One thought on “CDC to Provide Guidance for State and Local Health Departments Through the Model Aquatic Health Code

  1. January 10, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you for helping get the word out about MAHC. It’s important that training and knowledge is put into place with regard to swimming pools to prevent tragedy before it occurs. Many health codes are not backed by science and the MAHC is a great resource for anyone in public health.

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