More than 20 L.A. lifeguards develop rash, respiratory problems following swim exam

Nearly two dozen Los Angeles lifeguards have accused city officials of negligence after they said they developed respiratory problems and rashes following a training course.

"Our LA City Open Water Lifeguards are blowing the whistle on unsafe working conditions (and) calling out the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for their negligence," the Service Employees International Union said in a statement.

According to a grievance filed by the lifeguards' labor union, prior to the exam, a lifeguard raised concerns to officials with the Department of Recreation and Parks about the hazardous conditions in Hansen Dam Recreational Lake, but they were ordered to swim there for skills testing anyway.

The lifeguard named in the grievance said he told his supervisors that he believed the lifeguards should stay out of the water until it was tested for harmful parasites, "based on his years of experience" and because of the "presence of these brain-eating parasites," the grievance states.

Following the swim exam on April 27, 22 of the 64 employees came out with rashes known as "swimmer's itch," which is a bacterial infection caused by an allergic reaction by small parasites, according to their labor union. They also "immediately suffered respiratory problems."

"The employees had to seek medical attention from the City's Industrial Medical Services, Workers Compensation and have been placed off work until further notice," according to the grievance.

The lifeguards want the parks department to test all open water and are calling for the city officials who ignored their concerns to be disciplined. They are also seeking compensation for any wages and benefits lost in their ordeal.