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Show Highlights

If float tank water is safe, in part because of all the salt, then why is there such a huge emphasis in the industry for water treatment? After all, there haven’t been any reports of anyone getting sick because of floating.

Ashkahn and Graham tackle this question and challenge the idea on its face, because, well, just because something hasn’t been reported doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and given how little is known about water treatment in float tanks, it’s a good idea, as an industry, to minimize the risk of infections and illness as much as possible. Really, there’s a lot of reasons, from peace of mind, complying with health regulation standards, and even marketing, to maintain your float tank solution to as high a standard that you can.

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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Graham: Alright.

Ashkahn: Hey.

Graham: Yo.

Ashkahn: Yo-yo.

Graham: ‘sup?

Ashkahn: What’s happening?

Graham: I’m Graham.

Ashkahn: I’m Ashkahn.

Graham: And today’s questions is, “how much does water sanitization matter really if no one has ever gotten sick in a float tank?”

Float tanks are devices that-

Ashkahn: Well, okay. First thing is it’s not I don’t think as accurate to say nobody’s ever gotten sick in a float tank and it is to say there have been no reported cases of illness from someone floating in a commercial float tank.

Graham: For a couple reasons, right? Because you could also just get a cough in a float tank unrelated to the float tank, which would be getting sick in a float tank.

Ashkahn: Sure, and there’s just no way of knowing. We don’t actually know-

Graham: But that’s the actual reason why. I started with a stupid reason, sorry.

Ashkahn: The actual reason is that not a thing we can know if people have or have not gotten sick. When people talk about this many illnesses from this or things like that, what they’re talking about is reported illnesses. If you look up pool and spa data, or maybe you’ve heard us say things on the show before like this is one of the leading causes of illnesses from pools and spas. For people to have that sort of data to say things like that, somehow the health department or some section of government needs to find out that somebody got sick and tie it back to something. That often happens when people go to the doctor or they contact the health department and just report it. It varies from place to place.

Some jurisdictions have better built in reporting systems, where the hospitals and stuff like that are communicating directly with health departments and will actually be the reporting agent themselves, and others don’t, and it really does rely on someone getting sick to make the connection and actually go out of their way to call the health department and say, “I got sick and I think this is why” and for the health department to go and look into it and determine if that’s true. It much more often happens when there’s children involved. With pools, kids get sick and the moms are like, “What the heck?”, and they want to look into it and contact people and-

Graham: Call the other moms.

Ashkahn: Or when it’s a group activity especially, you call someone else who was there with you that day, and you’re like, “Hey, is your kid sick too because my kid has been doing this”, and that gives you the fodder for creating some sort of connection and for realizing that there’s a pattern.

Graham: How many times have you, faithful listener, gone on and reported something to the health department when you got sick?

Ashkahn: Like food poisoning from a restaurant. If you got food poisoning and you’re like, “Man, it was totally from this place”. Have you ever-

Graham: Did you call?

Ashkahn: Do anything about it? Yeah, that’s an unreported illness. No one knows about that and that’s not going to show up in any statistics or anything like that.

Graham: As you can imagine, the amount of reported illnesses is way, way lower than the amount of actually illnesses.

Ashkahn: And there’s weird things too, like the places that have the best reporting also have the most illnesses, as you would imagine, right? You look at a place, you’re like, “Man, this state is sucking at their health stuff, look at how many illnesses they have at this state compared to this other state”, and you’re like, “Well, actually, they’re probably doing really well because they just have a much better system of reporting and getting that data out than this other place does”.

Graham: So we don’t know for sure that people haven’t gotten sick in a float tank. We don’t even really know exactly what could get people sick in a float tank. A lot of that data is kind of still out. We know that things can survive in float tank water and that it’s really hostile to other organisms. We’ve talked about that on other podcast episodes which we’ll link to in the show notes, but even with those things, we don’t really know what the risk factor is, if the salt is deactivating their ability to get sick or weirdly enhancing it. It’s just a bunch of weird questions out there.

Ashkahn: There’s things that make floating different than the stuff that we can compare it to, like pools and spas, often. One is just you need to have a certain amount of some sort of microorganism get into your body to get you sick, you need to swallow a certain amount of E. coli to to get sick from E. Coli and it might just be that we’re not getting these sort of what they call infectious doses in a float environment or maybe we are. That’s the tough thing about this, there’s just a lot of questions up in the air and I think why people are so diligent about wanting to do the sanitation work is because we want to keep it the same way it is. We want to keep being able to say nobody’s gotten sick in there and with just lot of gray area and questions still left to be answered and research still to be done, I think what makes people feel good about running a responsible business is doing that stuff and keeping an eye on it and being diligent about it to make sure that if the answers to these questions go in kind of worst case scenario direction, we’re still doing something that is diligent, to keep people safe.

Graham: Yes, so there’s kind of like the personal responsibility side of things, which is we don’t want to get people sick and it’s a big gray area so why not side a little bit safer and be sure that you’re disinfecting the float tank solution to water disinfection standards for a pool or a spa or at least matching the ones that seem important for different organisms that we’re trying to block out. There’s also, we, for example, are very skeptical about the need to measure the level of PH and alkalinity in float tanks, especially if you’re not using chlorine-

Ashkahn: Specifically.

Graham: Yeah, specifically, whether to not you can get accurate readings outside of that is dubious anyway. If you’re not using chlorine, do we need to measure these? Big question mark again. We decide to do them once a week we don’t really need to, we’re not regulated by our state and at least for me, I feel more comfortable doing that just because we’re meeting some of the outside health department protocol. We’re such a weird business anyway, there’s a benefit to me, separate from the illness side of things to maintaining things to a higher level, just so we look a little better to the outside world and so we can have these conversations with health departments and they don’t immediately think that we’re crazy.

I guess I also see a benefit to going along with some of the smaller sanitation items just to be playing by the same rules.

Ashkahn: I got some more here.

Graham: Do it, hit it.

Ashkahn: Here’s another one for you. This argument is getting weaker over time, which is kind of a good thing, but another thing is realize is just the scale of the float industry is on versus things that we hear about illnesses from. Pools and spas is one example, or restaurants is another example. Think about how many people eat at restaurants versus how many people float in commercial float tank over the course of a year, and when you start looking at how many illnesses are reported or when it has to go through all that sort of stuff for something to come up to the surface,there may be a chance that as this industry continues to grow, and we start floating millions and millions of people a year, that that statistics of that odd scenario happening where someone does actually get sick. The likelihood of unlikely events increases, and so we want to protect ourselves against those kind of unlikely events because they’re more likely to pop up as this whole thing gets bigger and we’re just exposing ourselves to more and more possibilities of people coming in and diseases and circumstances and all that.

Graham: I guess it’s just like a reiteration of the fact that just because there aren’t any reported illnesses doesn’t mean that we’re just for sure in the safe zone. The low amount of floats we do total should be factored into that.

Ashkahn: Another thing I think is worth noting is that just because you don’t get someone sick doesn’t mean your float tank is not kind of unappealing. If you’re not doing good sanitation, it can get kind of cloudy, it can get kind of discolored, it can smell kind of weird. Those are things that may not get people sick, you could hop into a float tank that isn’t perfectly clear has a slight musty smell to it or something like that and come out okay and not be ill but it’s not really great for the experience or for your business. You want to be doing sanitation to make sure your float tanks look nice and smell nice and look clear and aren’t making people hesitate when they come into your shop to hop into a float.

Graham: It’s true, I immediately thought of just the length of time before we change out the full solution, when you were mentioning that. We don’t know. There’s not a period of time after which the salt solution in a float tank becomes bad per se, or even a number of floats that afterwards you absolutely should be changing it. So we kind of just draw this artificial line at Float On that’s around a year for changing out our solution. It’s in no small part of marketing decision, being able to tell our customers that we change out our solution once a year is kind of nice, and even that I think is a little shocking to them. You have to usually preface that with, “There’s all this salt that goes through rigorous disinfection and we change it out once a year”.

There’s just a pure marketing side to wanting to focus on sanitation and be able to tell your clients how you keep things clean as well.

Ashkahn: Yeah and as we get more clarity onto those whole world of sanitation, I think we might be able to realize there are spots where we can pull things back a little bit. Like, “Hey, you know, there’s just really not that much risk here, maybe we don’t have to be doing something quite as intense as everyone’s doing” or just as likely, we’ll find things that people have kind of been neglecting or none of us realized was as important to keep clean as it actually is and we all need to kind of change our behavior. It’s just going to take time to unveil the mystery. As we do, we’ll just have to keep up and adjust our behavior. When you don’t know, I think it’s easy to kind of want to lean on the more precautious side and to kind of beef up your efforts to make sure that whichever answer comes out, you’re going to feel comfortable with your practices.

Graham: We’ve spent more time on this in other podcast episodes as well, but just to come back to your float tank water isn’t the only thing that you’re keeping sanitary in your float center. It includes things as simple as just your lobby and making sure that that’s staying clean and sanitary, but even more important that the inside walls of your tank are being wiped down. That the benches and the floor in your float rooms are being kept clean and disinfected between people because that’s not being hit with any UV, we’re not doing the kind of standards outside the tank by necessity that are being done inside. It doesn’t have a ton of saltwater that’s just there all the time. Certainly keeping up to standards with sanitation on hard surfaces on the areas the clients touch outside the tank is always really good advice and, honestly, I think is one of the places where I feel the most nervous at some float centers, they’re not doing a great job disinfecting between clients.

Ashkahn: I feel like there’s just something to be said about a culture of sanitation. Like you’re saying, there’s other things with regard to slip-proofing and keeping an eye on electrical stuff or making sure everything is working functionally or making sure your UV light’s actually turning on. There’s just a lot to keep on eye on, proper handling of your chemicals, there’s all this stuff that spreads outside of the liquid in your float tank. I think there’s something about running a float center and having your employees be diligent about all the parts of that that reinforces all of them.

If you’re just kind of like loosey-goosey on the water sanitation, it’s going to be a lot harder to be very stringent about handling of chemicals and making sure people are wearing gloves and eye protection or making sure that everyone’s really properly making sure the float tank doesn’t kick on when they’re changing the filter. It’s diligence. You gotta be careful and there other various non-sanitation ways that people could be injured or harmed by getting into a float tank and kind if creating that all around view of sanitation is I don’t know. It all kid of reinforces each other, which I think is nice.

Graham: Yeah, for sure. Alright, I think that’s all I had.

Ashkahn: Suck on that next time you’re thinking about not sanitizing stuff, questioner-asker.

Graham: Why? Why are you so mean?

Alright, this is Graham, signing off.

Ashkahn: And this is Ashkahn also signing off.

Graham: And go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast and send us all of your queries.

Ashkahn: And we’ll talk to you later.

Graham: Alright, peace out.

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