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Media Release - APVMA Issues Health Warning for Owners of Pools and Spas

11 March 2004

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) is warning owners of pools and spas that rely solely on water sanitising/disinfecting devices based on silver or silver and copper that they could face serious health risks. People with these devices should make sure that they begin using only registered pool and spa chemicals containing chlorine or bromine in line with label instructions.

APVMA Principal Scientist, Dr David Loschke, said that this warning comes following the completion of an analysis of available scientific evidence that was unable to show that silver and copper ion based pool and spa sanitising devices were effective by themselves.

'Pools and spas not protected by effective sanitisers are potentially very dangerous. Anyone relying solely on silver and copper based systems should immediately begin using approved sanitisers containing either chlorine for pools or chlorine or bromine for spas,' Dr Loschke said.

'Pool sanitisers using silver or silver and copper ions are typically built into or placed in the pool or spa circulation or filter system,' he said.

'Based on our analysis of the available data and published scientific literature we cannot be confident that these sanitiser devices are adequate in controlling harmful micro-organisms that can readily grow or be transmitted in pools and spas,' he said. 'Some of these micro-organisms can cause serious, even life-threatening illness.

'The bottom line is that, in the interests of public health, the owners of pools and spas with these devices should make certain that they also use registered chlorine or bromine based chemical products in line with the product instructions,' he said.

'There is a large range of registered pool and spa sanitising chemical products available that we know are fully effective. Pool and spa owners can purchase these from their local product retailer.'

'We are taking regulatory action against these silver and copper based pool and spa sanitiser devices. Our research into the area also revealed that there are a number of unregistered products in the marketplace that we will be acting on,' Dr Loschke said.

The APVMA is the national regulator of pesticides and veterinary medicines but also has responsibility for the regulation of products marketed to control water quality of pools and spas. Registered products can be identified by an NRA/APVMA approval number found on the label.

Answers to frequently asked questions about pool or spa sanitation along with a list of registered pool and spa sanitising products can be found on the APVMA website at www.apvma.gov.au

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