Fast Facts

Information on Healthy Swimming and Recreational Water

  • In the United States during 2009, there were approximately 301 million swimming visits each year by persons over the age of six 1.
  • Thirty-six percent of children aged 7-17 years, and 15% of adults in the United States, swim at least six times per year 1.
  • Swimming is the fourth most popular recreational activity in the United States 1.
  • Swimming is the most popular recreational activity for children and teens (ages 7-17) 1.
  • About 91 million people over the age of 16 swim in oceans, lakes, and rivers each year in the United States 2.
  • Almost 1 in 8 (12.1% or 13,532 of 111,487) routine pool inspections conducted during 2008 identified serious violations that threatened public health and safety and resulted in an immediate closure 4.
  • More than 1 in 10 (10.7% or 12,917 of 120,975) routine pool inspections identified pool disinfectant level violations. Chlorine and other pool disinfectants are the primary barrier to the spread of germs in the water in which we swim 4.
  • About half (56.8%) of spas are in violation of local environmental health ordinances, and about 1 in 9 spas require immediate closure (11%) 6.
  • A total of 81 recreational water–associated outbreaks affecting at least 1,326 persons were reported to CDC for 2009-2010 7.
  • Cryptosporidium (or Crypto) is an extremely chlorine-tolerant parasite that can survive in a properly chlorinated pool for 3.5–10.6 days 8.
  • Of 49 recreational water–associated outbreaks of gastroenteritis during 2009-2010, 55% were caused by Crypto 7.
  • Of 57 gastroenteritis outbreaks associated with treated (for example, chlorinated) recreational water venues, 84% were caused by Crypto 7.
  • More than 1 in 5 (21.6%) of American adults do not know swimming while ill with diarrhea can heavily contaminate water in which we swim and make other swimmers sick 9.
  • In 2008, almost 4,600 persons visited an emergency department for pool chemical-associated injuries. The most common injury diagnoses were poisoning, which includes ingestion of pool chemicals as well as inhalation of vapor, fumes, or gases and dermatitis/conjunctivitis. More than half of the injuries occurred at a residence 7.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children aged 1–4 years. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 5–9 years 10.
  • More than 60% of fatal drownings of 0–4 year-olds occur in swimming pools 11.
  • In the United States in 2009, almost 24 million individuals participated in motor or power boat activities 1.
  • In 2010, 3,153 persons were injured and 672 died in recreational boating accidents 12.
  • Of those who drowned in a boating accident, 88% were reported to not be wearing a life jacket 13.
  1. US Census Bureau. Statistical abstract of the United States: 2012. Arts, recreation, and travel: Participation in selected sports activities 2009 Cdc-excel[XLS – 45 KB]External
  2. CDC. USDA, Forest Service. NSRE – National Survey on Recreation and the Environment.External 2000.
  3. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. U.S. swimming pool and hot tub market 2011 Cdc-pdf[PDF – 1 page].External
  4. 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.
  5. Hubbard R. U.S. Hot tub sales not so hot in 2007. Pool and Spa Marketing. March (2009b):14.
  6. CDC. Surveillance data from public spa inspections — United States, May–September 2002. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004;53(25):553-5
  7. 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.
  8. Shields JM, Hill VR, Arrowood MJ, Beach MJ. Inactivation of Cryptosporidium parvum under chlorinated recreational water conditions.External J Water Health 2008;6(4):513–20.
  9. CDC. Promotion of healthy swimming after a statewide outbreak of cryptosporidiosis associated with recreational water venues — Utah, 2008–2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61(19):348-52.
  10. CDC. Drowning – United States, 2005-2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61(19):344-347.
  11. CDC. Vital Signs: Unintentional injury deaths among persons 0-19 years – United States, 2000-2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61(15):270-276.
  12. CDC. Stay safe while boating.
  13. Boating Safety Resource Center. Recreational boating statistics 2010 Cdc-pdf[PDF – 77 pages].External United States Coast Guard. 2011.
Page last reviewed: September 15, 2016