What you’ve suspected since your first swimming lesson at the YMCA has now been confirmed by research: There’s a ton of pee in public pools, and in your pool at home too. Basically, commercial pools have around 20 gallons of pee floating around with you and your kids, and private, residential pools typically have around 2 gallons.
The problem? Pee in the pool is yucky, of course, but human urine is typically sterile. But when it comes into contact with the usual disinfectants used in pools (such as chlorine) it can result in new chemical compounds that are actually pretty bad for you.
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Here’s why peeing in a pool is not only gross, it can be dangerous too.
- Those chemical compound byproducts? They can include trichloramine, which is one of the big baddies that can lead to mucus membrane and respiratory irritation. This is what we’re actually smelling when we’re near a pool — the byproduct of pee mixed with chlorine, not the chlorine itself. (You’re welcome.)
- Not only can this byproduct result in short-term irritation, but it can aggravate existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
- Competitive swimmers and those who work around pools, such as lifeguards and maintenance workers, are at greater risk. However, even casual swimmers can experience symptoms, which can include watery, irritated eyes, irritated nose or cough.
- Sometimes, if a pool isn’t properly ventilated and the chloramine levels build up, symptoms can be severe and require medical help. They can include burning eyes, burning nose, sore throat, trouble breathing or wheezing, as a family in Nebraska experienced in 2006.
The solution? Well, everyone needs to stop peeing in pools ASAP, but that’s probably not going to happen any time soon, especially since small children who aren’t toilet trained contribute quite a bit of urine themselves (swim diapers don’t do anything aside from keep poop from popping out — urine flows freely).
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The onus, then, is on the maintenance workers to keep the pools’ pH levels in line and also to keep the pool area well-ventilated. This will move the chloramines out and bring fresh air in.
Definitely, though, if you’re old enough to pee in a toilet consistently, just don’t pee in the pool.
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