Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Swimming Report: Don’t Pee in the Pool

June 27, 2015


CDC Recognizes Connection Between Peeing in the Pool and Chloramine Formation

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention just released its Annual Healthy Swimming Report with tips for “staying healthy” when swimming. The report strongly recommended not to “pee or poop in the water” in order to prevent dangerous chemicals from forming when that pee or poop chemically reacts with the chlorine.

The CDC recommends that anyone using “pools, waterparks, hot tubs, splash pads, and spray parks” should be careful about “chemicals that form when chlorine mixes with pee because “these chemicals—not chlorine—can cause your eyes to get red and sting, make your nose run, and make you cough.”

These “chemicals that form” are called chloramines. Chloramines form when chlorine, intended for sanitizing the pool, reacts with nitrogen. The word chloramine comes from chlorine reacting with a type of nitrogen compound called an “amine,” generating a chloramine. Newsweek describes the chemical reaction as “nitrogen in urine binding to chlorine to form chloramine.” Jezebel explains that “Chlorine binds with all the things it’s trying to kill from your bodies, and it forms these chemical irritants.”

In the Healthy Swimming Report, the CDC recommends following “4 easy steps”:

  1. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea. This is a good tip. Here’s why: Diarrhea has nitrogen, which would react with chlorine to make chloramines, which are bad.
  2. Shower before you get in the water.  This is a good tip. Showering, especially with soap or shampoo, washes oils away, leaving less on your body to react with the chlorine.  Natural oils have nitrogen, which react with chlorine to form chloramines, which are bad.
  3. Don’t pee or poop in the water. This is a good tip.  Pee and poop both have nitrogen, which would react with chlorine to make chloramines, which are bad.
  4. Don’t swallow the water. This is a good tip. Bathing water is not the same quality as drinking water. Don’t drink it.

The CDC points out that “healthy pools, waterparks, hot tubs, splash pads, and spray parks don’t have a strong chemical smell.” EXACTLY. The same point holds true for people. People should not have a “strong chemical smell.” Here, the problem is exactly the same. The surface of a person (e.g., hair, skin, eyes, nails) is made mostly from protein. Protein has lots of nitrogen, which reacts with chlorine to form chloramines, which are bad. The presence of chloramines on human hair and skin is detectable by smell, which is often described as “eau de chlorine.” You can test yourself by licking your arm and sniffing it after a day at the pool.

From what I can tell, all swimmers recognize the chlorine problem. However, for years, most swimmers have either ignored it or contributed to the problem.

  • Speedo’s Natalie Coughlin poster shows her bragging,  “chlorine is my perfume.”
  • After the London Olympics, US Weekly, ran an article about Ryan Lochte admitting to peeing in the pool. Lochte later made a viral video on the subject.
  • Michael Phelps told the Telegraph, “I think everybody pees in the pool. It’s kind of a normal thing to do for swimmers.” Phelps went on to explain that “chlorine kills it so it’s not bad.”  To be clear: Peeing in the pool shouldn’t be normal. Chlorine doesn’t kill it. It is that bad.

Recently some influential members of the swimming community have recognized the importance of minimizing chloramine exposure, which has just recently become possible for people regularly exposed to chlorinated pools--like competitive athletes. SwimSpray is the first and only product that neutralizes chloramines from hair and skin. The difference is noticeable because it's up to 400 times more effective at neutralizing chlorine than shampoo or soap.

SwimSpray’s spokesperson and 2-time Olympian Chloe Sutton explains “I don’t know how I ever got along without it….my hair and skin are so much healthier.”

Doctors, including pediatricians and dermatologists agree.  SwimSpray’s technology makes sense and has no concerns for side-effects because it’s only ingredients are two forms of vitamin C and ultrapure water.


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