Is it Safe to Swim in a Pool With Algae?


Is that growth that's overtaking your backyard swimming pool creating a health risk for your family? Not by itself. Before you do battle with swimming pool slime, arm yourself with some facts. You and your family will be safer and healthier.

Algae Facts

  • The same qualities that make algae a vital component of natural marine ecosystems make it a potential hazard in your pool. That is, algae creates an atmosphere where bacteria can grow.

    Algae is a category of nonflowering plants that include seaweeds and lots of other forms, all the way down to single-celled organisms. Because algae contains chlorophyll, it reproduces with the aid of photosynthesis. Most backyard and public pools are located in bright sunlight, and the water is not moving the way a body of water in nature does. This means that the potential for reproduction is significantly boosted, which is why algae can bloom so rapidly in your pool. It's not uncommon to see green algae take over a pool in a day or two.

    The extensive presence of algae can indicate a lack of basic pool hygiene like adequate filtration and chlorination. But this is not always the case. Algae spores are carried into the pool by wind or precipitation, and some are brought in by swimmers, especially if they have been in other pools that contain algae or in natural swimming environments.

Bacteria and You

  • Not all bacteria are harmful; some can be extremely beneficial, even necessary, to the human digestive system. Others are used to produce vital medicines, ferment wine and raise bread. But the bacteria you may find in your swimming pool is often not the nice kind.

    The culprit responsible for putting bacteria into your swimming pool is, most likely, you. Humans carry all sorts of bacteria, even when they are well. But if they are not, the risks are especially high. Most humans carry a small amount of feces on them, sometimes containing harmful bacteria. From there, bacteria makes contact with other swimmers, causing illness or infection. But even without direct contact, bacteria can spread.

Algae and Bacteria

  • Algae encourages the growth of bacteria by providing food for it. Ordinary pool chemicals like chlorine will, under the best conditions, kill bacteria. But if there is algae present, it's much harder to eradicate the bacteria. This is because they feed on the "slime" produced by algae.

    Bacteria are microscopic and impossible to see with the naked eye. Consequently, you will never be able to identify bacteria in your pool. Algae, on the other hand, is quite visible. That's why emphasis is so often placed on the eradication of algae in swimming pools, even though the plants themselves are not toxic.

Swimming Pool Hygiene

  • The more people swim in a pool, the more bacteria it's likely to contain. Proper filtration and circulation are vital to keeping bacteria counts manageable. Attention to these factors can also greatly limit algae growth.

    Most public swimming pools require that individuals shower before entering the pool. This is helpful in a few different ways. First, the shower may rinse off hazardous bacteria. Second, any algae spores remaining on swimsuits that have been in the ocean or a lake can be removed as well.

    It's important that sick children or adults don't swim in public or family pools. It's not just bacteria that can spread this way, but viruses, as well. Think of a swimming pool as a communal bathtub. Whatever is washing off of your bathmate could very well be washing onto you.

Other Algae Risks

  • Most algae in swimming pools creates a slippery slime, increasing the likelihood of a fall. This can lead to injury or even drowning.

    The chemicals used to combat algae can be hazardous, causing irritation to the eyes and respiratory systems of children and adults. Proper swimming pool maintenance can help prevent the propagation of an algae bloom, so these chemicals won't need to be introduced. The storage and use of pool chemicals can also cause other hazards if individual compounds are accidentally mixed. Take proper care to store your pool chemicals, and read the labels, heeding any warnings.

Have Fun and Be Safe

  • Swimming is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing activities for kids and adults alike. Doctors recommend it as a low-impact activity with high health benefits. Keep it that way: Take some simple steps to keep your pool clean, safe, and free of bacteria and algae.


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