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Recreational Environment and Swimming Areas


There are several major components of the recreational environment that can contribute to the spread of disease and increase the amount of injuries within the United States and all other world communities. People travel from one point in the world to another or within a given country. Unless they are walking to the travel destination, they need to use some form of transportation, so they travel by motor vehicle (automobiles and buses), trains, planes, and ships. The individuals need to have available but may be lacking: potable water; safe food; safe and secure housing; disposal of solid and hazardous waste; and disposal of sewage including human waste. Throughout the centuries various microorganisms, insects, and rodents have accompanied the travelers from one area to another which has resulted in innumerable outbreaks of disease, some of them devastating epidemics or pandemics. Animals and plants have been moved from one local ecosystem to another, sometimes resulting in disastrous consequences.

Hundreds of millions of people, United States citizens and visitors from abroad, utilize a variety of recreational areas each year. Many of the recreational areas were not designed to be utilized at this level of intensity. Some of these individuals are subclinical carriers of various diseases which may spread throughout the complex recreational environment. Typical environmental problems include inadequate or improper sewage disposal; poorly drained land; contaminated water supplies; improper solid waste disposal; inadequate or malfunctioning refrigeration; poorly constructed and poorly maintained food preparation areas; insect and rodent hazards; animal problems; noxious weeds; inadequate, overcrowded, or poorly maintained housing; and improperly maintained or contaminated water recreational areas. In addition, there are problems of inappropriate feeding and petting of livestock, mechanical erosion of soils, substantial increase in traffic and resulting safety concerns, disturbance of wildlife, camping which may affect the ecosystem, litter, and forest fires. For specifics in each of these areas, see the relevant chapters of this book by topic area and see Handbook of Environmental Health Biological, Chemical and Physical Agents of Environmentally Related Disease, Volume 1, Fourth Edition (CRC Press) and Handbook of Environmental Health Pollutant Interactions in Air, Water, and Soil, Volume 2, Fourth Edition (CRC Press). (See endnotes 65, 66.)

There are a huge number of potential safety problems related to the unfamiliar environment, the behavior of the individuals on vacation, and/or the level of physical fitness of the visitors to these areas. Some 24% of all injuries are caused by falls, while 19% of all injuries are related to motor vehicles. Other types of injuries may be related to hiking, swimming, boating, climbing, biking, skiing, horse riding, camping, and snowmobiles. (See endnote 3.)

Many recreational areas are of a seasonal nature. The physical facilities may have deteriorated. The equipment may become outdated, inadequate, or simply not operable. The individuals operating various pieces of equipment are typically either students or transient workers. Because of a lack of experience by the workers, the risk of spreading disease or causing injury increases.

Since it would be much too lengthy to go into a discussion of all types of recreational areas and potential programs that are utilized by a variety of health departments, the means of transportation to and within recreational areas including airlines and cruise ships, summer camps for children, and swimming areas will be the major concern of this chapter. (The transportation issues will be limited to airlines and cruise ships since environmental health as well as safety issues of motor vehicles have been discussed in: Chapter 2, “Air Pollution (Outdoor [Ambient] and Indoor)”; Chapter 4, “Children’s Environmental Health Issues”; and Chapter 6, “Environmental and Occupational Injury Control.”) Passenger trains especially those which are long distance have some of the same types of problems as cruise ships and therefore will not be discussed. Freight trains are an entirely different concern because of the cargo that they carry and will not be part of this discussion. (See Chapter 5, “Environmental Health Emergencies, Disasters, and Terrorism” for further information.) Transportation problems related to cruise ships will be part of the cruise ship discussion. The problems as well as the Best Practices used to resolve the environmental, and health and safety issues for these four topic areas can be used for all recreational areas and transportation concerns with certain modifications.

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