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No, It Is Not Safe to Pee in the Pool

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Kids in PoolJust in time for Spring and Summer pool parties, we finally have an answer to the age-old debate: Is it safe to pee in the pool? Turns out, it’s not as safe as Olympic swimmers make it out to be. When urine mixes with chlorine, a substance can form that can cause health problems associated with the lungs, heart, and central nervous system.  More from American Chemical Society:

Sanitary-minded pool-goers who preach “no peeing in the pool,” despite ordinary and Olympic swimmers admitting to the practice, now have scientific evidence to back up their concern. Researchers are reporting that when mixed, urine and chlorine can form substances that can cause potential health problems. Their study appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Jing Li, Ernest Blatchley, III, and colleagues note that adding chlorine to pool water is the most common way to kill disease-causing microbes and prevent swimmers from getting sick. But as people swim, splash, play — and pee — in the pool, chlorine mixes with sweat and urine and makes other substances. Two of these compounds, including trichloramine (NCl3) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl), are ubiquitous in swimming pools. The first one is associated with lung problems, and the second one can also affect the lungs, as well as the heart and central nervous system. But scientists have not yet identified all of the specific ingredients in sweat and urine that could cause these potentially harmful compounds to form. So Li’s team looked at how chlorine interacts with uric acid, a component of sweat and urine.

They mixed uric acid and chlorine, and within an hour, both NCl3 and CNCl formed. Though some uric acid comes from sweat, the scientists calculated that more than 90 percent of the compound in pools comes from urine. They conclude that swimmers can improve pool conditions by simply urinating where they’re supposed to — in the bathrooms.

Download our Complete Potty Training Guide so your little one doesn’t have any accidents this pool season.

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Image: Happy children in pool via Shutterstock.

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