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Why Doesn't Chlorine Kill Recreational Water Illness (RWI) Germs?

Chlorine (in swimming pools and hot tubs) kills the germs that cause recreational water illnesses (RWIs), but the time it takes to kill each germ varies.

In pools and hot tubs with the correct pH and disinfectant levels, chlorine will kill most germs that cause RWIs in less than an hour. However, chlorine takes longer to kill some germs, such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium). Crypto can survive for days even in a properly disinfected pool. This is why it is so important for swimmers to keep germs out of the water in the first place.

To protect yourself, your family, and other swimmers from RWIs, it is essential to learn and practice healthy swimming behaviors.

Return to Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI)

See what others are saying

Comment from: worried mom, 19-24 Female (Caregiver) Published: September 11

My son has a retinal mystery that started shortly after our home pool party (chlorine level was found to be low that day but no one else had issues). His eyes were red and irritated after the swim, several days later an afterhours clinic diagnosed him with pink eye. Fast forward a few weeks, irritation returned and an eye doctor hurriedly sent him to a retinal specialist who in turn ordered full bloodwork, chest x-ray and MRI - stat. Here we are a month later and still no definitive answers. All results are negative/normal and my son has permanent scarring on his retina that has greatly diminished his vision in one eye - white dot syndrome, possibly from an unknown virus. I'm wondering if it is possible this is RWI (recreational water illness) originated from the pool water.

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Comment from: RWI Dad, 3-6 Male (Caregiver) Published: March 14

We do not use many chemicals in our spa as it is a newer spa and has many new features to reduce the use of chemicals. My 5 year old was in the spa with our 13 year old and was getting water out of the waterfall and was spitting it at her. I told her to stop and she continued, to make a long story short, she had diarrhea the next day (all day) and soon developed a rash on the inside area of her anal passage. I am a physician's assistant and have seen it before, this is RWI without a doubt. Do not think because it is your spa or pool it cannot happen.

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