Before you go for a swim at the public pool, you may want to think twice about what you're plunging into.

The Centers for Control and Disease's (CDC) jaw-dropping discovery of high levels of fecal matter in indoor and outdoor pools has caused an alert for stronger reinforcement of public health and safety regulations.

With 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States, approximately 300 million Americans over the age of six visit these pools every year, reports the United States Census Bureau. Frequent pool visits can result in long-term chronic illnesses due to continuous exposure to disinfectants. Although the utilization of disinfectants is used to promote healthy swimming, the chemical agents can react with organic and inorganic material in the water to form disinfectant byproducts (DBPs).

If you and four other people are going swimming, chances are one of you will pee in the pool, says a survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council. The unhealthy behavior of pool goers has put swimmers at risk with a whopping 200 percent increase in risk from 2004 to 2008 of developing recreational water illnesses. Poor practice of pool compliances, such as the lack of maintaining appropriate disinfectant and pH levels, will make swimmers and, especially kids, sick. A CDC report confirms that one in eight pools were shut down two years ago due to negligence of public health and safety regulations, with fecal matter being a common factor in the 120,000 swimming facilities inspected.

Public swimming pools are a bowl of health risks that can infect you and your family. Learn about the human diseases that are most prevalent in indoor and outdoor pools this season.

1. Asthma.

Chlorine has been shown to increase the risk of developing asthma. The chlorine scent in pools causes lung irritation in swimmers because of the presence of chloramine byproducts. Chlorine produces nitrogen trichloride (a byproduct of chemical reactions between ammonia and chlorine), which is the cause of occupational asthma for indoor pool workers. Chances are if you work as a lifeguard, you are at higher risk of developing asthma. In a study published in the European Respiratory Journal (ERJ), workers who suffered from asthma or asthma symptoms at an indoor swimming pool were observed by Dr. K. Thickett, a physician in the occupational lung diseases unit at the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital. The participants in study changed their jobs or were told to stay away from the swimming pool to determine if limited exposure to swimming facilities affected their asthma. Results showed that the participants either had lessened asthma symptoms or no longer had a dependency on inhalers. "...the chemical reaction that takes place when chlorine mixes with sweat, urine, skin, and hair" is what contributes to asthma, according to Thickett.

Respiratory ailments apply to not only swimming pool employees but also children who swim in these pools. In a Belgian study, researchers found that kids who frequently swam had proteins that were linked to a high risk of asthma just like smokers. If the pool has an overwhelmingly strong chlorine smell, it most likely contains higher levels of the toxic chemicals that form DBPs.

2. Legionnaires' Disease.

Water and vapor facilitate the transmission of a bacterium lung disease called Legionnaires' Disease that is similar to pneumonia. The disease has a strong presence in indoor public swimming pools due to the inhaling of the bacteria in water vapor. It tends to grow in water naturally in "manmade environments," reports the CDC. However, exposure to the disease does not necessarily mean that you will become ill. In case you are uncertain about whether or not you have been exposed, the CDC says to look out for these signs and symptoms:

  cough

  shortness of breath

  high fever

  muscle aches

  headaches

These symptoms can take from two to 10 days to show. With 10,000 to 50,000 cases of Legionnaires' in the United States reported each year, it is important to take all the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of this infectious disease.

3. Athlete's Foot.

Feet exposure in a swimming facility can increase the risk of the highly contagious athlete's foot. Swimmers who have acquired this disease can easily infect others with the pieces of fungi that fall from their feet if they do not wear sandals or pat their skin after they swim. The National Health Service (NHS) reports that communal showers, swimming pools, and changing rooms are the three top places that athlete's foot is spread. A helpful tip when you frequent the pool is to wear water-resistant shoes or flip-flops, and avoid borrowing shoes.

4. Swimmer's Ear.

This bacterial infection occurs in the outer ear canal that appears several days after a swim. When water stays in the ear canal for long periods of time, it allows for bacteria to grow and infect the skin, says Mayo Clinic. The germs that are commonly found in chlorine pools can bring on this illness and is known to be the common cause of swimmer's ear. The imbalanced levels of disinfectant and pH levels in pools play a significant role in acquiring swimmer's ear.

5. Cancer.

Swimming for 40 minutes can result in cancer-causing DNA mutations. In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers studied the effects of genotoxicity in swimmers and the link to the risk of cancer. The 50 healthy adult participants who swam for 40 minutes in a chlorinated pool were seen to have an increased micronuclei in blood lymphocytes, which is linked with cancer risk along with urine mutagenicity brought on by the exposure to these agents.

In the pools used for the study, researchers reported the presence of more than 100 DBPs linked to gene mutations, which means swimming pool chemicals contain a moderate risk of cancer. The results of this study does not mean that swimmers should stop this healthy exercise. It is advised that after 40 minutes of this physical activity, you become more susceptible to the chemical agent associated with cancer.  

Prevent these five health risks from affecting you and your family. Remember to be swim smart.