That sparkling blue water looks cool and inviting on a scorching summer day. But do you really know what you’re getting when you dive in the pool?
Let’s try pee and poop for starters. And if you think chlorine totally protects you from that and other yucky stuff, think again.
“People believe that the water is sterile because it’s a pool with chlorine in it, but the reality is as soon as you stick a human body in water, it’s no longer sterile. There are bacteria and germs that can get in the water,” says Thomas Lachocki, PhD, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation.
Those bacteria and germs, which come from you and your fellow swimmers, can make it harder for chlorine to do its job.
One major culprit: urine. The true reason swimmers get red, irritated eyes is not the chlorine itself, but from a reaction caused when pee mixes with chlorine, Lachocki says.
When chlorine is battling urine and other wastes, it loses the ability to fully protect us from other lingering pool germs, says Michele Hlavsa, RN, MPH, chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.
“The chlorine is busy mixing with what we bring into the water, and there is less chlorine to kill the germs. We are kind of using up the chlorine with what’s washing off of our bodies,” Hlavsa says. Studies show the average person brings into the pool:
- 0.14 grams of poop
- One or two soda cans’ worth of sweat
- One cup of pee
- And billions of skin microbes
Children can carry as much as 10 grams of poop into the pool. “If 1,000 kids go to a waterpark, then 10,000 grams — or 22 pounds — of poop will potentially rinse off of their bodies into the water,” Hlavsa says.