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The truth about pee in pools: Is it dangerous?


Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada set out to determine the extent of pee contamination in swimming pools and concluded that a commercial-size swimming pool likely contains almost 20 gallons of urine. They said a residential pool probably holds about two gallons.

It is no surprise to Marilyn Christian with Harris County Public Health: “I've seen way too many parties where nobody leaves the pool for a long time.”

Director of Disease Control Dr. Brian Reed, said “this is a big body of water, chances are you're not going to know.”

The presence of pee in your pool isn't just gross; it raises health concerns.

“There are different types of bacteria and parasites that can live for hours to days depending on the time of which the pool was treated. So, if you ingest untreated pool water that has some of this bacteria, you can get sick,” Reed said.

Illnesses include upset stomach and diarrhea, he said, but if a pool is treated properly you should be safe.

Christian is making sure of it.

“I wish there was a test I could do! But no, fact is there is not. I’m used to people telling me if you pee in the pool it's going to turn red and everything but… all a myth,” she said.

She cannot flat out test for urine in pools, but she makes sure pools have several important chemicals to kill germs and bacteria.

The public health department said a big part of the problem is that bodily fluids like urine, feces and sweat can counteract the chemicals keeping you safe. Therefore, the solution mostly depends on you. They recommend a good rinse-off before jumping in so the chemicals can work with ease.

Reed also said a rinse before swimming will help remove hairspray, lotions and perfumes which may contain chemicals that make chlorine work harder. He said chlorine’s job should be to kill harmful bacteria, not the chemicals swimmers have on their bodies.