Lots of folks will be jumping into the pool this holiday weekend and having so much fun that they may not want to take the time to jump out to use the restroom.
But let’s be frank: Peeing in the pool is gross. Think about it this way: Would you want any part of your body touching the water in a toilet bowl after someone peed in it? If the answer is no, then you definitely don’t want your entire body in the pool after someone’s peed in it.
Be honest — you’ve done it, haven’t you?
Don’t feel bad, even serious competitive swimmers do it. Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has admitted it, saying “chlorine kills it, so it’s not bad.” He also added: “There are two kinds of swimmers in this world: Those who pee in the pool, and those who lie about it.”
HARMFUL TO HEALTH
Without a doubt, peeing in the pool is also harmful to our health. A new study says chlorine doesn’t, in fact, kill the contents of our urine, but rather reacts with it to create potentially dangerous byproducts. The research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, measured the presence of dangerous byproducts in pools. Uric acid from human urine mixes with chlorine to create the cyanogen chloride and trichloramine. CNCI is a toxic compound that can harm organs like the lungs, heart, and central nervous system. NCl3 has been linked with acute lung injury.
In recent years scientists have wondered whether exposure to trichloramine also is linked to rising rates of childhood asthma. So far, the link is “suggestive but not conclusive.” If you have asthma or swim frequently, pool chemicals may cause respiratory problems, even without the urine effect.
Scientists in the U.S. and China joined forces to figure out why those two compounds, trichloramine and cyanogen chloride, were popping up in pool water. They traced them back to chemicals whose most likely source was bodily fluids… namely, urine.
“A common misconception within the swimming community is that urination in pools is an acceptable practice, although signs and placards are posted in many pools to encourage proper hygiene. It is also well known that many swimmers ignore these warnings; particularly noteworthy among these are competitive swimmers,” said study author Ernest R. Blatchley III, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University.
Yep, a fifth of all American swimmers admitted to doing their business in the pool, according to a survey by the Water Quality and Health Council. The survey found that most people who used pools didn’t realize the diseases that a contaminated pool could carry.
So, do you really need to worry about dangerous urine-induced chemicals when you take that next dive?
WHAT’S REALLY IN THAT POOL WATER?
Let’s just start with the premise that the pool you dive into will contain pee, because it probably will. There’s also probably going to be a wee bit of fecal matter, a dollop of human sweat and some skin cells floating around.
It’s fair to say that, details aside, it would take a heck of a lot of urine to turn a pool so toxic that it would kill you outright. But could the much smaller amounts generated in an actual pool do any harm?
Aside from the gross-out factor (ever swim next to someone in a pool and suddenly find the water getting warmer?) the answer is Yes, it’s a fact, Jack. Your you-know-what can combine with the chlorine in pools to create a nasty bit of chemistry.
And then there’s good old Number Two. Research has determined that the total percentage of bacteria in a swimming pool can reach 92.3 percent while the rate of coli bacteria found in fecal matter can be as high as 96.9 percent.
The consequences of this can be fatal. In 2008, one man died and 3,158 swimmers were critically poisoned when they swallowed the pool’s water which was laced with the urine and fecal matter of 47,000 swimmers in the gigantic Mao Mao Municipal Pool in Beijing.
A toxicologist noted after taking a sample of the water that urine and fecal matter consisted of nearly 90 percent of the mix. Yuck.
So the next time you’re at the swimming pool, heed those warning signs but also be wary of your fellow swimmers. And it’s probably best to avoid the kiddie pool.