Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Determination of the Solids Retainment Effectiveness of Disposable Swim Diapers

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Determination of the Solids Retainment Effectiveness of Disposable Swim Diapers

Article excerpt


The contamination of public swimming and bathing facilities by fecal material associated with infants and toddlers in diapers is becoming a significant public health concern in the United States. Public health officials and pool facility managers are increasingly faced with the conflict between providing accessible aquatic recreation opportunities for infants and young children and protecting the health of all pool users. This dilemma has become particularly acute at urban public facilities serving primarily low-income families where the exclusion of infants and toddlers effectively curtails the ability of a parent to bring the family to the pool.

In June of 1998, 27 children in the Atlanta metropolitan area were infected with pathogenic E. coli bacteria at a local water slide park in Cobb County, Georgia (Gilbert & Blake, 1998). The contamination that led to these illnesses was traced to the kiddie pool at the White Water facilities; it resulted in seven hospitalizations and the death of a two-year-old girl. It is believed that the original source of the E. coli may have been tainted ground beef produced in April of 1998.

Outbreaks of recreational water-borne disease appear to be increasing. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 36 recreational water-borne disease outbreaks involving gastroenteritis occurred during 1999-2000, twice the number that occurred during 1997-1998 (Lee, Levy, Craun, Beach, & Calderon, 2002). The most common types of outbreaks were Cryptosporidium parvum in swimming pools or interactive fountains and Escherichi coli O157:H7 in freshwater venues. Because diarrheal illness is underreported to public health authorities, the number of reported outbreaks associated with recreational water use is probably underestimated by these reports (Mead et al., 1999). The recent increase in reported outbreaks is probably due to improved surveillance and reporting as well as to a true increase in the number of such outbreaks (Lee et al., 2002). More recently, a large outbreak of shigellosis involving 45 primary cases occurred at an unchlorinated fill-and-drain wading pool in Iowa (Lohff et al., 2001).

Some state health departments have implemented policies to address this increasing public health risk. For example, the State of Illinois Swimming Pool and Bathing Beach Code now requires "tight fitting rubber or plastic pants to be worn by infants at pools" (Metz, 2000). Also, CDC has set up a Web site informing the public about waterbornedisease risks from recreational swimming (CDC, 2003).

The many different types of bacteria commonly associated with fecal-coliform measurements breed and thrive within the digestive system of warm-blooded animals. Although most of these bacteria are harmless and many actually aid in digestion and other metabolic processes, several types of fecal bacteria can have extremely detrimental health effects if they are consumed. In many instances, ingestion of contaminated water results in lengthy gastrointestinal illness. In the most extreme cases, or without proper medical attention, ingestion of these pathogens can be fatal.

Fecal contamination of drinking-water sources or recreational areas can result in infection by Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and, as in the Atlanta case, forms of mutagenic E. coli. It is important to remember that in some cases the ingestion of one single protozoan or bacterium can be enough to infect an individual. For these reasons the national standard for fecal coliform in drinking water is less than one colony per 100 milliliters (mL) and 200.0 colonies per 100 mL for whole-body-contact recreation uses. Infants and toddlers (as well as the elderly and people with compromised immune systems) are especially vulnerable to these types of health threats.

One possible solution to this widespread public health concern is the development and required use of diaper-type swimwear, which might effectively prevent the release of fecal material during normal aquatic play activity. …

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