Pool Myths and Urban Legends
I’m going to switch things up a bit and start with some fun, did you know? Tid-bits!: Did you know that in 45minutes of swimming you can swallow 1-2.5 tablespoons of pool water? In that pool water contains: 10million microbes of hair, 8million microbes of saliva (in just one drop), 140+ BILLION microbes from nose, skin, mouth and fecal matter. YUM-OO!
I’m sure there are a lot myths that you’ve heard or even told someone else about swimming pools or swimming in general. Well I’m here to hit that piñata and watch all the facts spill everywhere!
MYTH #1: I think this is the most popular urban legend: “IF YOU PEE IN THE POOL THERE’S A CHEMICAL THAT WILL TURN IT BLUE!”
Not only is this very false it’s just silly. I can understand the reasoning that someone came up with this – peeing in the pool is gross! So someone wanted to try and stop them from doing it by scaring them into thinking everyone would see you pee in the pool. But have no fear—there’s no such chemical!! You can safely pee in the pool with no chemical dye to rat you out………however is it really safe to do so? Find out next….
MYTH #2: “I can pee in the pool because the chlorine will kill it”
Mostly everyone has done it and even Michael Phelps admitted to doing it during long practices. But 2 wrongs definitely do not make a right. Peeing in the pool can pose an even bigger threat than just “there’s now pee in the pool”. When Uric Acid, found in urine, combines with the chlorine in the pool it can create 2 byproducts: Cyanogen Chloride and Nitrogen Trichloramine, both of which are extremely hazardous for healthy swimming—they can affect many, many organs and even the central nervous system. Plus if we have everyone peeing in the pool, then the chlorine is going to divert all of it’s time trying to kill/disinfect what is being introduced than other germs that also pose a risk to swimmers. So just by taking a leak into the pool, you’ve now introduced a potentially extremely harmful chemical combination into the pool but also unnecessary germs. Take regular restroom breaks and please don’t pee in the pool if you enjoy having healthy lungs, central nervous system and a healthy heart!
MYTH #3: “If I can smell the chlorine, the pool is clean”
I admit, before I knew anything about pools this is exactly what I thought. Even in some cases, I enjoyed ‘the smell of a pool’. If you are like me then I am about to tear your world apart. If a pool you are about to swim in has a strong chlorine odor, RUN AWAY. That pool is not clean and in fact, the chlorine is most likely very low. Urine, sweat, fecal matter, saliva, beauty products and other compounds combine in the pool with chlorine [ammonia and nitrogen] to create chloramines—which are the source of that strong “pool smell”; you’ll more likely experience this with indoor facilities. When there is a high quantity of chloramines not only is the ventilation of that area in question but also the condition of the water itself. To test for chloramines you can use DPD test kit or your nose! It isn’t that hard to find out if there a significant amount of chloramines present—you can even take a handful of water and smell (try to avoid taking any water in the nose!). Shocking the pool and having a good ventilation system are ways to remove chloramines.
MYTH #4: “My eyes are red and painful, there’s too much chlorine in the water!!”
If I had a nickel for each time I heard this while working…….it’s not true! The reason for irritated eyes and/or skin is not caused by the chlorine level but in fact, the pH level and chloramines present. Again touching on bather hygiene, it’s best for your own health but the health of others to shower before entering the pool to reduce the byproducts of disinfection that create chloramines. Safe pH levels to swim in is usually 7.2-7.8. Most will generalize and say that since 7.5 is right in the middle then that’s the most safe to swim at. That is not necessarily true. Chlorine is a lot more effective closer to 7.2 and 7.0. However most bathers will notice eye and skin irritation around 7.0. If your eyes and skin have a bad reaction after being in a swimming pool, check the chemical levels and try to smell around for a strong chlorine-like odor for chloramines—they are the culprit!
MYTH #5: “You need to wait 30min—1 hour after you eat before you can swim or else you’ll get a cramp and drown”.
It’s been theorized that all the blood needed for digestion will go straight to the stomach and deprive your limbs of proper blood flow and they will essentially stop working and you will drown. Man oh man……..just ridiculous! There’s really no research that proves that if you swim immediately after eating that it directly causes cramps that will stop your limbs from functioning. Cramps can happen at any moment during physical/recreational activity. It can however, cause some nausea. If your body hasn’t properly digested all that you took in during the adult swim break—your body will direct most of the blood to your extremities leaving you with minor stomach irritation and possible vomiting. So if you were to wait before entering the water after snacking, it’s to help calm your stomach before vigorous activity that could result in you swallowing pool water and maybe even save the facility from having to close for a biohazard contaminate in the pool.
That’s enough for now I suppose……. Keep an eye out for Volume II of Ruby’s Pool Myths and Urban Legends! And as always, thank you for reading and hopefully learning. Continue to follow me every Tuesday for more helpful tips, info and stories on how to make for a safe and fun life around water.