CDC: Better Safety Needed at Public Hot Tubs
More Than Half of Public Hot Tub Spas Violate Safety Standards
July 1, 2004 -- More than half of the public hot tub spas in
the U.S. may be unsafe, according to a new report from the CDC.
Researchers found 57% of the more than 5,000 public hot tub
inspections across the U.S. had one or more safety violations. Spas located at
campgrounds and hotels or motels were the biggest offenders.
Eleven percent of the violations were severe enough to result
in the immediate closure of the facility, pending correction of the
The most common violation was poor water quality.
Researchers say the findings show that more rigorous safety
inspections and improved training of spa operators are needed to reduce the
threat to public health posed by public hot tubs.
The high temperature of the water in spas depletes the
disinfectant and makes them an ideal environment for bacteria, such as
Legionella, and other diseases. During 1999-2000, a total of 13
outbreaks of infectious disease, affecting 183 people, were attributed to
public and private spa use.
Public Spas Frequently Violate Safety Standards
The findings appear in the July 2 issue of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Researchers analyzed information from 5,200 inspections of
public spas located in Florida, Minnesota, California, Wyoming, and
Pennsylvania that were conducted between May 1, 2002 and Sept. 1, 2002.
About half of the inspections found one or more violations, and
the number of violations ranged from one to eight. Water chemistry problems
constituted about 51% of the violations. Other common violations included
inadequate filtration or recirculation systems (32%) and lack of training by
the operator of the facility (23%).
The location of the facility, such as a hotel or motel, was
documented in about half of the inspections.
For those inspections for which the location was known, the
highest percentage of violations caused by inadequate levels of disinfectant
were found in campgrounds (22%) and hotel/motel spas (20%).
Of those inspections that warranted immediate closure of the
facility, the highest number were also in campgrounds (15%) and hotel/motel
"Spa inspection data should be used more effectively for
public health decision-making, and public health partnerships are needed to
improve the level of training and vigilance by spa operators," write the
Researchers say spa users can also reduce their risk of illness
by following these steps:
- Shower or bathe with soap before entering the spa.
- Observe limits, if posted, on the maximum allowable number of bathers.
- Do not allow children under age 5 to use hot tub spas.
- If you are pregnant, consult a doctor before using a spa, especially in the