Chemical likely cause of local water park illnesses

CINCINNATI (AP) - Exposure to accumulations of a potential irritant known as trichloramine likely caused eye and breathing problems reported by hundreds of visitors to an indoor Ohio water park, according to a federal report released Thursday.

Insufficient air movement and distribution likely led airborne trichloramine to collect at the park at Great Wolf Lodge near Cincinnati, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The park had 665 complaints of eye and respiratory irritation by visitors and lifeguards in 2007. Chloramines are created from the reaction between chlorine in the water and nitrogen-containing sweat and urine from swimmers.

The report says trichloramine is the main chloramine found above chlorinated water surfaces and has been suspected as the cause of outbreaks of eye and respiratory irritation. Federal health officials said no new cases were reported after the water park followed recommendations for increasing air movement and distribution at the pool deck level.

The CDC article added nothing new to what the water park had been told, said Steve Shattuck, spokesman for Great Wolf Lodge, which is owned by Madison, Wis.-based Great Wolf Resorts Inc. He said the water park implemented many of the recommendations before the report was completed.

"We increased air flow in the water park by 10 percent, and we've had no new complaints," Shattuck said.

Daniel Collins, director of environmental health at the Warren County Combined Health District, said the federal investigation reinforced the local department's findings.

"It was basically what we thought, and once they made their changes to the ventilation system, the problem went away," Collins said.

The CDC's report is sent to a national audience of more than 60,000 doctors and public health professionals and includes news about disease trends and reports about investigations of illness clusters.

"This gets the information out to a wide audience of medical and public health officials who may see similar kinds of cases and wonder what they can do to address those kinds of problems," said Fred Blosser, a spokesman for the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that conducted the investigation at the water park. "We hope this will be helpful."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)