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General Information

Pools Can Be Fun

Want To Educate Someone About the Model Aquatic Health Code?

  • Fact Sheets – Printable factsheets about the MAHC
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Whether you dog paddle or do an elegant backstroke, swimming can be fun and we all know it’s good for you. Also, when your muscles are tight and you’re tense, a nice sit in a spa or hot tub can be very relaxing. Water translates to fun, relaxation, and good exercise for many of us. In fact, did you know that people in the United States swim more than 300 million times in pools and other swimming areas each year?

However, in some places, swimming and other water-related activities can lead to injuries and the spread of disease, including:

  • Drowning
    Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1–14. Non-fatal drowning can cause brain damage resulting in learning disabilities or even permanent loss of basic functioning.
  • Chemical injuries
    Injuries linked to pool chemicals accounted for almost 5,000 emergency department visits each year. Almost half of the patients were under 18 years of age.
  • Waterborne illness outbreaks
    Outbreaks associated with pools and aquatic facilities have increased dramatically from an average of 15 a year (1993–2002) to 34 (2003–2012). A single outbreak can sicken thousands.
  • Public pool and hot tub closings
    Recent studies found that routine inspections resulted in immediate closure of 11.8% (1 out of 8) of public pools and 15.1% (1 out of 7) of public hot tubs because of health hazards.

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) is a set of guidelines published by CDC. This document brings together the latest knowledge based on science and best practices to help state and local government officials develop and update pool codes. Pool codes are specific rules that designers, builders, and managers of spas, pools, waterparks, and interactive fountains must follow to keep the fun going and reduce injuries and illnesses. Pool codes are similar to codes used for restaurants to tell them how to keep food safe to eat. Codes are usually developed at the local government level and may cover such things as how water is tested for safety, how aquatic facilities are built and managed to ensure public safety, and how chemicals should be used to keep water safe.

Keeping People and Pools Healthy and Safe: the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC)

The Model Aquatic Health Code Helps Prevent Pool Problems

The Model Aquatic Health Code contains guidelines to help prevent pool-related problems, such as using the wrong chemical or too much of a chemical, drowning, or outbreaks caused by bacteria and other germs that can contaminate aquatic facilities. What is an aquatic facility?  An aquatic facility is a physical place with a pool, a spa, a waterpark interactive fountain, or other similar features. The Model Aquatic Health Code addresses public aquatic facilities such as

  • Public swimming pools
  • Pools, hot tubs, and spas in hotels, apartment complexes, and neighborhoods
  • Interactive fountains
  • Waterparks

The Model Aquatic Health Code does not cover pools or spas in people’s homes or backyards.

New Guidelines Keep Pools Safe

Why is the Model Aquatic Health Code important? Most health departments and related agencies must develop programs to keep public pools and other aquatic facilities safe. Previously, agencies had to start from scratch and had to do their own research to develop pool codes to maintain safe facilities. This also meant that the pool codes varied a lot from one area to another. That is because no overall science-based reference existed, until the Model Aquatic Health Code, which was first released in the summer of 2014. Government agencies can now use the model code to create or update existing pool codes to reduce risk for disease outbreaks, drowning, and chemical injuries.

Partners Come Together To Make the New Code

The code was created by CDC at the request of a group of businesses, health departments, academicians and others because no science- or best practices-based guidelines existed at a national level. The Model Aquatic Health Code is a tool for government agencies to use in developing their own pool codes. It is not a federal law and only becomes law if adopted by a state or locality. This means government agencies can

  • Choose whether to adopt it at all
  • Choose to use all or only certain parts
  • Modify part or all of it to fit their needs

Use of the Model Aquatic Health Code is intended to save time and resources spent individually developing and updating codes across the country, while giving agencies the benefit of the latest science and best practices to help keep pools fun, safe, and healthy.

Keeping Up the Code

Keeping the code up to date is an ongoing task. That’s why CDC is working with the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) to help ensure the Model Aquatic Health Code is regularly updated and stays current with the latest science and best practices. The CMAHC works with their members from public health, aquatics, business, universities, and the general public that work across the country to ensure the latest scientific and technological improvements are covered by the MAHC. These recommendations to improve the Model Aquatic Health Code are sent to CDC every two years to help CDC to appropriately update the MAHC.