While one in five Americans admits to peeing in the pool.
"Nearly 100 percent of elite competitive swimmers pee in the pool. Regularly. Some deny it, some proudly embrace it, but everyone does," Indeed, record-breaking Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps admits to regularly relieving himself while swimming.
"I'm sure I've swum directly behind people who were just letting it all out,"
When mere mortals cop to pool peeing, one of the reasons it seems so offensive is that it violates a code of behavior -- to relieve oneself in the pool, around others, is truly antisocial. But given that the practice seems acceptable in the competitive swimming community, is it really harmful?
Yes, pool pee really can cause a sanitation problem.
The nitrogen in urine binds to the chlorine present in pools -- the sanitizing chemical used to destroy pathogens like E. coli, salmonella and other bacteria people carry -- to create a different chemical, chloramine. That's a problem for two reasons. First, binding to the chlorine ties it up, so it becomes a less effective disinfectant. And that leaves way for dangerous bacteria to survive longer in each pool, which can spread common illnesses like diarrhea from chryptospiridium.
What's more, chloramine is irritating to many people, causing respiratory irritation, coughing and stinging, red eyes. Chloramine also creates a strong smell that many of us associate simply with pools. If you smell that "pool smell," you're most likely smelling chloramine rather than chlorine.