Why it's not OK to pee in the pool


Urea reacts with disinfectant to produce potentially dangerous byproducts. 


Peeing in the pool can be tempting, especially if the air is chilly and the toilet a bit of a trek away.

But before you submerge, let loose and avoid eye contact with other swimmers, it’s important to realise that peeing in the pool isn’t harmless.

A reaction between urine and chlorine is responsible for that thick pool smell, burning red eyes and can even be linked to respiratory problems.

Swimming pools are treated with chemicals that react with water to produce hypochlorous acid – a disinfectant that protects us from dangerous microorganisms such as E. coli and salmonella.

But hypochlorous acid is not equipped to deal with our own organic matter, including sweat and urine, which creates unwanted byproducts.

One of these byproducts is trichloramine. It's produced when the predominant urine compound urea reacts with chlorine.

In fact, researchers have estimated that there might be 30 to 80 millilitres of urine per person in a public pool. Researchers have also warned about medicines that run through our system and leave in in our pee, creating an enormous range of byproducts for which we’re not yet prepared.

What can we do about it? Not much, other than rinsing off excess dirt and sweat before you jump in the pool – and of course, using the facilities for their intended purpose.

Check out the American Chemical Society Reactions team’s explanation in this video:

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Anthea Batsakis is a freelance journalist in Melbourne, Australia.
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