Science: Don’t pee in the pool!

The idea of swimming in another human’s urine is beyond gross. Yuck. Not refreshing at all. Although, if you think about it, we humans quite happily swim in lakes and rivers, which are undoubtedly home to the urine of other species.

But, getting back to the urine of other humans. We hate it. We scream at our youngins to not pee in the pool. But, when our kids become teens and sass-mouth ask us why they can’t pee in the pool, our reason is rather weak scientifically (e.g., “Because I freaking told you not to!”).

Finally, we parents have some science on our side.  A study was recently published in Environmental Science & Technology that looked at the results of mixing chemicals in normal human urine and typical pool chemicals, including chlorine. The result? Badness. Here’s how the scientists summed up their work: “Given that uric acid introduction to pools is attributable to urination, a voluntary action for most swimmers, these findings indicate important benefits to pool water and air chemistry that could result from improved hygiene habits on the part of swimmers.”

According to an article in Salon, here’s the science of what happens when urine and pool chemicals meet: “Chlorine mixes with uric acid to form other, potentially dangerous substances, including trichloramine (NCl3) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl), which are then released into the air as gases. Both are associated with lung problems when inhaled; CNCI can also affect the heart and central nervous system.”

The article says the gases created are especially a problem if there is a great deal of urine (yuck) and the ventilation in the pool area is poor.

So, you might think of printing off the study and showing it to your kids (and laminating it to protect it from repeated blasts from a Magnum SuperDrencher 5000).

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