Your Neighborhood Pool Is Full of Unshowered Pee-ers

published May 15, 2019
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Splish, splash, I was a taking a bath… in the community swimming pool, apparently.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, most of us are already plotting our weekends lounging by the water. But here’s some news that’ll have you reaching for the hand sanitizer: According to a new survey of 3,100 adults, more than half of Americans (51%) report using a swimming pool as a communal bathtub. This means they’re either swimming as a substitute for showering, or using the pool to rinse off after exercise or yard work. Despite these “alternative” methods of getting clean, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans say they know very well that pool chemicals do not eliminate the need to shower before hopping in the pool.

“When dirt, sweat, personal care products, and other things on our bodies react with chlorine, there is less chlorine available to kill germs,” says Dr. Chris Want, chair of the Water Quality & Health Council. Rinsing off for just one minute removes most of the dirt, sweat, or anything else on your body.”

But if you think that’s bad, just wait: 40% of Americans admit they’ve peed in the pool as an adult. That’s right—full fledged adults peeing in the pool. And the same thing happens, as with everything else: the urine reduces the amount of chlorine available to kill germs in the water.

“The bottom line is: Don’t pee in the pool,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming program. “Swimming is a great way to be physically active and not peeing in the pool is a key healthy swimming step.” 

In case you’re not already horrified, 24% of Americans said they would go in a swimming pool after having diarrhea (the CDC says those who have been sick in the last two weeks risk contaminating the pool).

Whether you’re jumping in your own backyard pool or hitting the neighborhood spots, you can feel free to test out the water on your own. The Water Quality & Health Council is offering free pool test kits through its 15th annual Health Pools campaign, so you can measure chlorine levels and pH. You can also check the inspection scores of certain swimmings venues online, since lots of state and local public health departments are required to list that information.