Bacteria in hot tubs, spas and swimming pools

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Bacteria found in hot tubs, spas and swimming pools are a health hazard to the users of these recreational facilities.

It is estimated that one-third of waterborne disease outbreaks are caused by pools and hot tubs. It is important to note that some people are more likely to get sick from exposure to bacteria and parasites in recreational water than others.

Risk of sickness or infection in swimming pools, spas or hot tubs

The risk of sickness or infection is often associated with faecal contamination of the water. The source of contamination could be faeces released by users, contaminated source water or, in case of outdoor pools, contamination by animal faeces. Many of the infection outbreaks related to swimming pools can be prevented or reduced through proper maintenance.

Assessing the microbial quality of pools, spas and hot tubs

Microbial quality of pools, spas, hot tubs and similar environments is assessed using indicator microorganisms. Indicator microorganisms include heterotrophic plate count(HPC). HPC is a general measure of non-specific microbial levels, faecal indicators (such as thermotolerant coliforms, E. coli), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Legionella spp. HPC, thermotolerant coliforms and E. coli are indicators in the strict sense of the definition. The results of the microbiological test provide valuable data regarding the microbial quality of the pool water.

As health risks in pools and similar environments may be faecal or non-faecal in origin, both faecal indicators and non-faecally-derived microorganisms (e.g. P. aeruginosa, S. aureus and Legionella
spp.) should be tested. Faecal indicators are used to monitor for the possible presence of faecal contamination; HPC, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Legionella spp. can be used to examine growth, and Staphylococcus aureus can be used to determine non-faecal contamination. The absence of these organisms, however, does not guarantee safety, as some pathogens are more resistant to treatment than the indicators, and there is no perfect indicator organism.

Testing Services for Bacteria in hot tubs, spas and swimming pools.

The owner of a swimming pool, spa or hot tub, and any pool service company they hire, have an obligation to safely maintain and operate their pool, spa or hot tub. Parasites, bacteria, and other microorganisms can thrive in even well maintained pools, spas or hot tubs. Regular testing of the water is therefore recommended.

Mold & Bacteria Consulting Laboratories offers the following testing microbial quality tests:

Whirlpools, spas, hot tubs

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Heterotrophic plate count
  • E. coli/Coliforms
  • Legionella sp.

Swimming pools

  • E. coli/Coliforms
  • Fecal Coliforms
  • Staphylococcus or Staphylococcus aureus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Fecal Streptococci or Fecal Enterococci
  • Candida albicans
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Dr Jackson Kung'u
Dr. Jackson Kung’u is a Microbiologist who has specialized in the field of mycology (the study of moulds and yeasts). He is a member of the Mycological Society of America. He graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, with a Masters degree in Fungal Technology and a PhD in Microbiology. He has published several research papers in international scientific journals. Jackson has analyzed thousands of mould samples from across Canada. He also regularly teaches a course on how to recognize mould, perform effective sampling and interpret laboratory results. Jackson provides how-to advice on mould and bacteria issues. Get more information about indoor mould and bacteria at
Dr Jackson Kung'u

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