Why Peeing in the Pool Could Be Dangerous | Disinfection By-Products


[♩INTRO] If you’ve ever been a competitive swimmer
– or, just spent a lot of time at the pool – you might have peed in the water once
or twice. Or maybe a lot. According to interviews, Olympic swimmers
pee in the pool all the time. Even though it sounds disgusting, a lot of
people say urine is sterile, plus chlorine is a disinfectant. So what’s a little pee between friends…
right? Well, you might actually wanna take your business
to the bathroom. For one, it turns out that pee isn’t all
that sterile. But there’s another problem, too: Mixing urine with the chlorine in your pool
can make chemicals that might cause respiratory and nervous system problems. Urine is mostly water, but it contains a lot
of junk your body doesn’t want anymore, including uric acid and urea, both nitrogen-containing
molecules. Uric acid is produced when your body breaks
down molecules called purines, like the ones in some of your DNA bases. And urea is made from the breakdown of proteins. When these waste molecules mix with chlorine
in the pool that’s meant to destroy bacteria and viruses, they react to form disinfection
by-products, or DBPs for short. Specifically, urea reacts to create a type
of chemical called chloramines, swapping out its hydrogen atoms for chlorine atoms. Trichloramine, especially, is pretty reactive,
and can corrode the metal in and around pools. And you might know it by its smell – that
classic chemical “pool smell” is caused by chloramine gases, not chlorine. A lot of people, like lifeguards, have reported
they get red eyes, a runny nose, or a scratchy voice after being around the pool too much,
which could potentially have something to do with irritation from lots of trichloramine. Some researchers think chloramines could cause
respiratory problems in swimmers, too, since they probably breathe in a bunch more than
your average pool-goer. But we’ll need to do more research to really
understand the health effects. We’ve known about the connection between
urea and trichloramine for a while now, but we’ve pretty recently found a link between
uric acid and a molecule called cyanogen chloride. Cyanogen chloride gas doesn’t have a familiar
smell, but it’s real bad news and can cause respiratory, cardiovascular, and central nervous
system problems. It’s part of a group of chemicals called
cyanides, which all have a carbon atom bonded to a nitrogen atom. They’re toxins, and nasty ones at that. These chemicals mess with how your cells use
oxygen, so your cells struggle to produce energy, and if the concentrations are high
enough, all kinds of things can go wrong. In one study, published in the journal Environmental
Science & Technology in 2014, researchers created synthetic urine and combined it with
various concentrations of chlorine. And within an hour, the uric acid created
some cyanogen chloride. The amount varied based on the chlorine concentration
they used, but it was around 2 to 8 milligrams per liter. Now, there aren’t many official guidelines
about what concentration of liquid cyanogen chloride is dangerous, but some sources recommend
avoiding exposure to more than 0.6 milligrams per cubic meter of the gas form. So getting 2 to 8 milligrams per liter of
cyanogen chloride sounds like a huge deal. But it’s pretty unlikely you’ll ever find
that much in your swimming pool, because this experiment used higher concentrations of chlorine
than you’d find outside of a lab. So, you probably don’t need to panic if
you go to a pool party every once in a while. DBP levels might be an issue at large swim
meets, where hundreds of swimmers are probably peeing in the water. Especially if a lot of people are peeing in
the same spot – say, at the foot of the diving board – that area will have higher
concentrations of DBPs like trichloramine or cyanogen chloride. And researchers are trying to figure out if
long-term exposure to DBPs are related to the unusually high amounts of asthma reported
among competitive swimmers, which has been documented in multiple surveys. For now, it looks like DBPs probably aren’t
a life-or-death issue in the pool, although they’re not harmless either. So getting out of the pool, drying off, and
going inside to use the bathroom is kind of a pain, but your lungs – and probably your
friends – will thank you. And thank you for watching this episode of
SciShow! If you want to impress your friends with science
at the pool that you’re definitely not gonna pee in, you can get your very own SciShow
beach towel, available at dftba.com/scishow.

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100 thoughts on “Why Peeing in the Pool Could Be Dangerous | Disinfection By-Products

  1. I get out of the pool,lift one leg up on the lifeguard's seat and pee while panting with my tongue sticking out just like a dog. You happy now?

  2. Did you get paid for this bogus information? Well what ever you say its true but you need to swim at least in 50% of uren to contract anything anyway.

  3. I enjoy the content from the various Sci show channels, unfortunately I find it very off putting to watch the presenters. Far too many of them have picked up the habit of bouncing their arms and upper bodies with each syllable as they speak. This is distracting and communicates that the presenters are not familiar or comfortable with the information they are presenting. I recommend studying other models and work on breaking these habits, you will appear to be more of authority on the topic and your rapport with the audience will improve.

  4. Ok look at his hands whats he doing there? There just shaking so much like he is cold idk someone please tell me what you think

  5. I do love this show. However!! I don't like it when scientists of any kind have to say things like "could be" and "some say" and other things that make it seem like you are stretching really far to make a point. "maybe it's true" is more click bait and I am not a fan of click bait. This is the only pop-science show that I subscribe to, and they do that here quite a bit, but I still enjoy the content.

  6. time to pee in the pool more kids, it involves alot of science you can learn from

    eduacation is top priority

  7. +Scishow what about open water such as lakes, rivers and oceans?
    Almost every aquatic animal pees, poos, bleeds and ejaculate in those. And how does salt water compare to (not-so) fresh water?

  8. After I watched the South Park episode on this issue many years ago, I became colimbophobic and a germaphobe.
    Haven't gone to a public pool since.

  9. I remember in the grown ups movie the guys pee in the pool and it set off a blue chemical letting everyone know they peed. I'm just waiting for that moment in every single water park or pool I have been in to see how embarrassed that person is.

  10. those symptoms… now I'm wondering if I wasn't always catching colds last year when I was teaching swimming lessons. maybe I was just around too much chlorinated kid pee 🤢🤧

  11. I love the beach towel design and my son in a competitive swimmer and my wife is a microbiological ecologist but they look very small for a "beach" towel. I love the channel though and you guys all do a great job. Being extra familiar with biology zoology ecology and botany as well as chemistry, I love the way you explore and explain the subjects. Thank you for entertaining me for so many hours!

  12. The people who pee in the pool are too lazy to go to the bathroom, I always get red eyes and foggy eyes when I stay inside the pool, like some people ACCIDENTALLY swallow the water in the pool, which is bad

  13. sooo what gives pools that iconic "pool smell" is actually caused by all the people who've urinated in it… I've always thought that meant the water was super clean and sterile Dx

  14. You guys have videos full of precious information, but how am I suppose to learn this all. I want to learn all of these videos full of information within it, but I dont know the fastest way. Can someone give me tips on how to learn this fast.

  15. I would always pee in the pool when I was younger

    This was mainly because my parents would always make me wear a one-piece swim suit and didn't enjoy going completely naked in public

  16. The 'pool' smell is actually the piss in the pool, mixing with chlorine, the stronger the smell, the more piss

    Also, you are swimming in piss and you are drinking piss,
    Think of that next time you go in the pool

  17. When I pee in the toilet and the city add chlorine to the water, does it mean all these chemicals are floating around in the bathroom?

    Jimmy, don't pee and don't fart in the swimming pool. What, it was not just fart?

  18. Even worse if bleach is in the water… don't ask why it would be in there. The pee that came into contact with the bleach would make Chlorine… a poison. That means everyone in the room would be most likely poisoned. I once peed a little on bleach. My nose felt weird.

  19. "cyanides have a nitrogen bonded to a carbon carbon atom" yeah along with virtually every organic molecule. Cyanides have a nitrogen TRIPLE bond to a carbon, if you miss the word triple you're not saying anything at all.

  20. I have issues with pools that have a really strong smell, I get severely nauseous and uncontrollably cough to the point I can’t breathe.

  21. Swam for 6 years (in a swim club) never have I ever peed in a pool how disgusting and selfish are you to pee in a public pool. I can't believe this is seen as normal behaviour.

  22. so i have never peed in the pool in my life but i was drinking some of your pee,,,,wtf,,,,i am going to pee always from now

  23. I have asthma and I swim
    But i had asthma sence before i can remember and i started competitively swimming about 5 years ago

  24. The water gets so murky. Especially when there are a lot of kids. And their parents think it's so funny, so cool.

  25. I’ve noticed, a pool has sodium hypochlorite solution, and so does bleach

    So why is bleach toxic
    And pool water not make us sick

  26. Get out of the pool and use the bathroom you lazy bums. Plus pee mixes with chlorine will burn your eyes not the chlorine by it self.

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