What to do if somebody pees in the pool? So here’s the thing. Somebody probably already has. Peeing in pools is more common than you would think. Sorry to be the bearer of this news, but it is not unusual to find levels of urine in most swimming pools. Prevention of the issue is the logical solution, but that is more difficult than one might believe. So rather than asking what to do if somebody pees in your pool, it might make more sense to proceed as if somebody already has.
There is a common myth circulating that if someone pees in the pool, it isn’t a big deal because the chlorine will “get rid of it.” Wrong. Urine is sterile, so chlorine can’t sanitize it. The problem is, that the myth that chlorine kills urine is quite prevalent, giving many of us the notion that a little pee in the pool isn’t a big deal. Even Michael Phelps, Olympic champion swimmer, has admitted he pees in the pool and that “everybody does it, the chlorine kills it.” Gross, right?
Prevention magazine explains that chlorine is a powerful chemical that needs a certain pH level to do its job properly. When somebody pees in your pool, that pH level is altered. Chlorine and urine combine to form by-products called chloramines, which among other things, use up the chlorine which is better used to kill germs and bacteria.
That typical odor we think of as chlorine? It may even bring back nostalgic memories of high school water polo or afternoons at the community pool. Well, it isn’t really the chlorine we are smelling. It’s pee and chlorine. Chlorine on its own doesn’t really have much of an odor. A YouTuber named Mark Rober put together an informative video, “How To Measure How Much Pee is In Your Pool” which is both fascinating and eye-opening.
In a worst case scenario, when urine combines with chlorine, a chemical reaction can occur that is quite unhealthy for us humans. Urine is made up of organic waste compounds such as urea which, when combined with chlorine, produces cyanogen chloride, an extremely harmful compound. Cyanogen chloride is classified as a chemical warfare agent, causing lung irritation and choking. (gasp!)
Don’t Freak Out
Studies have shown that the typical residential swimming pool may contain up to two gallons of urine. Before you run off to drain your pool immediately, let’s examine that information. The fact is that even though traces of urine are found in most pools, the parts per million are so low that the danger of death is slim to none. You are more likely to die from the other users of the pool murdering you once they know you have peed in the pool they are sharing with you.
What’s the Harm if Somebody Pees in the Pool?
You probably will not succumb to the cyanogen chloride that has formed in your pool. However, the problem is that even small amounts of cyanogen chloride can cause eye irritation, breathing difficulties, and possibly trigger asthma attacks. Your red eyes after swimming? Don’t blame excess chlorine in the water. More likely, your eye irritation results from the chemical reaction of urine and sweat binding with chlorine.
Interesting fact: competitive swimmers have a higher rate of asthma and respiratory problems than the general population. The reason for that could very well be their exposure to the chemicals formed when pee and chlorine combine. Pay attention, Michael Phelps.
What To Do About It?
It is important to address the issue of peeing in the pool head-on and educate your pool users. A recent study done by the University of Alberta showed that a community pool can have as much as 8-20 gallons of pee in it. Let that sink in for a moment. Your average backyard pool can have 2-3 gallons. Frank conversations with your pool users are definitely in order. Here are a few preventative measures you could take:
- Have the Pee in the Pool conversation.
- Put up reminder signs that peeing in the pool is more than bad manners, it is unhealthy.
- Shower before entering the pool. Sweat also contains uric acid, which, combined with chlorine, has a similar reaction to urine. Rinse off before diving in.
- Encourage kids to use the bathroom before getting in the pool.
- Have frequent bathroom breaks when using the pool.
- Dispel the myth that chlorine counteracts any urine in the pool. Precisely the opposite happens. Educate your pool users.
What Else Can Help?
- A proper balance of good filtration, adequate circulation, and the right balance of chemicals can go a long way in keeping the problem at bay. Test your chemical balance often. Make sure your pump and filter are up to date and functioning properly, and that you understand the correct chemical levels for maintaining a sanitary pool.
- The addition of specialty chemicals such as enzymes can boost the efficiency of chlorine. Enzymes can work to break down organic matter such as urea and noticeably improve the water quality.
- Secondary disinfection systems such as Ozone and UV can reinforce the sanitizing effects of chlorine. UV deactivates micro-organisms, and Ozone continuously “shocks” the pool.
Clearly, prevention is the number one solution to avoid having urine in your swimming pool. Even the Center for Disease Control has issued articles and Twitter tweets cautioning (pleading with) people not to pee in swimming pools. Nevertheless, even after education and everyone’s best intentions, we recommend taking a risk management approach to dealing with urine in your pool. Assume it is there, in whatever minimal parts per million, and address the issue. Don’t just wonder what to do if somebody pees in the pool. Take preventative measures and rest easier.
Aqua Pools is your one-stop shop for all things pool-related. Our professional team can address all your questions and concerns regarding an aggressive approach to maintaining the cleanest, most pristine pool in the Chicagoland area. For your convenience, you can also stock up on your pool chemicals online. Call or stop by today and let us see what we can do for you.