About the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC)
Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life. Americans swim hundreds of millions of times in pools, oceans, lakes, rivers, and hot tubs/spas each year 1 and most people have a safe and healthy time enjoying the water. However, outbreaks of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) have increased significantly over the last several decades 2 and drowning 3, 4 and pool-related chemical injuries 5-7 continue to occur. In addition, recent studies show that during routine inspections up to 12% (one out of eight) of public pools 8 and 11% (one out of nine) of public spas 9 were closed immediately because of health issues. This makes it important that public pools and spas are designed, constructed, operated, and inspected to keep swimmers healthy and safe.
In the United States, there is no federal regulatory agency responsible for aquatic facilities. As a result, most pools and spas are regulated at the state or local level; 68% of local health departments have public pool inspection programs 10. Those same state and/or local public health agencies individually devote significant time and resources to regularly develop, review, and update their pool codes, which govern the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools and other aquatic facilities. This translates into considerable variation in requirements for preventing and responding to recreational water illnesses, injuries, and drowning among local and state agencies across the United States.
To assist state and local agencies, CDC has led a national collaborative effort with public health, industry, and academic partners from across the United States to develop national guidance to prevent drowning, injuries, and the spread of recreational water illnesses at public swimming pools and spas. This guidance document, called the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), integrates the latest knowledge based on science and best practices with specific code language and explanatory materials covering the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, and other public disinfected aquatic facilities. As a result, local and state agencies needing to create or update swimming pool and spa codes, rules, regulations, guidance, laws, or standards can now use the MAHC as a resource to improve health and safety while conserving valuable time and resources previously used to write or update code language. To further assist users, CDC is working with national public health and aquatics industry partners such as the Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC), to ensure the MAHC is regularly updated so it stays current with the latest science, industry advances, and public health findings.
- US Census Bureau. Statistical abstract of the United States: 2012. Arts, recreation, and travel: Participation in selected sports activities 2009 [PDF - 2 pages]
- Hlavsa MC, Roberts VA, Kahler AM, Hilborn ED, Wade TJ, Backer LC, Yoder, JS. Recreational water–associated disease outbreaks — United States, 2009–2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(1):6-10.
- Gilchrist J, Parker EM. Racial/ethnic disparities in fatal unintentional drowning among persons aged ≤29 Years — United States, 1999–2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(19):421-6.
- CDC. Drowning — United States, 2005–2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61(19):344-7.
- Anderson AR, Welles WL, Drew J, Orr MF. The distribution and public health consequences of releases of chemicals intended for pool use in 17 states, 2001-2009. J Environ Hlth 2014;76(9):10-5.
- Hlavsa MC, Robinson TJ, Collier SA, Beach MJ. Pool chemical–associated health events in public and residential settings — United States, 2003–2012, and Minnesota, 2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(19):427-30.
- CDC. Pool Chemical–associated health events in public and residential settings — United States, 1983-2007. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58(18):489-93.
- CDC. Violations identified from routine swimming pool inspections — selected states and counties, United States, 2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(19):582-7.
- CDC. Surveillance data from public spa inspections — United States, May-September 2002. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004;53(25):553-5.
- National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). National profile of local health departments [PDF - 76 pages]. 2013. See Page 40.
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