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“P” is for Pool?

“P” is for Pool?

Before jumping into your neighborhood pool this summer you might reflect on Olympic gold-medal swimmer Ryan Lochte’s confession that he peed in the pool during warm-ups and Michael Phelps’ agreement that the practice is common during training. No Olympians in your pool? Turns out around 20 percent of most swimmers admit they’ve peed in the pool!

Related: How to Stay Safe While Swimming

Whatever the number, the big question is: Does chlorine, used to disinfect most pools, kill all the germs that are deposited in such a great Petri dish? Well, the answer’s yes, mostly. But the diarrhea-causing parasite cryptosporidium (that comes from intestinal leakage) can survive in a well-maintained pool for days! And a chemical reaction between chlorine, urine, and sweat produces trichloramine (NCl3), which can cause breathing problems.

Related: How a Swimming Pool can Make You Sick

Another volatile chemical also produced by urine plus chlorine is the neurotoxin cyanogen chloride (CNCl). Not something you necessarily want to soak in, but it takes more than a pool party of 12 year-olds to weaponize pool water.

So how can you tell if your pool or hot tub is pee-luted? The strong pool-water smell? Nope. That’s the aroma of chloramines such as NCl3, not a sign of clean water (a common myth).

Here are some tips for a cleaner splash:

  • Buy simple dip-and-check test strips that measure bacteria levels and check the effectiveness of total bromide or total and free chlorine in the water.
  • Everyone showers BEFORE jumping in.
  • Make sure all infants are clean and have waterproof diapers.
  • And do we really have to say it? DPITP!

Related; How to Avoid Bacteria While Swimming

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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