Is Swallowing Pool Water Dangerous?

“We don’t swim in your toilet, so please don’t pee in our pool!” You might have seen this sign at friends’ houses on occasion. As amusing as it is, it highlights a real issue. People think that because swimming pools contain a lot of water, a little bit of urine isn’t going to hurt anyone. And anyway, who really pees in a pool, right? Wrong! A recent article in the New York Times referenced a report by a doctoral student in analytical and environmental toxicology at the University of Alberta in Canada. The student, Lindsay Blackstock, found artificial sweetener in all 31 samples of pool water taken from public swimming pools. The sweetener could only have got there via people’s urine. Yup. Eeeeeew.

Urine and faeces are far more common contaminants in public pools than anyone is comfortable with. Every year, hundreds of people contract recreational water illnesses (RWIs) from swallowing pool water. The most common of these illnesses are gastrointestinal, such as diarrhoea, but can also include respiratory illnesses, as well as skin, ear and eye infections.

The best way to combat the microscopic nasties that cause these illnesses is to make sure the levels of chlorine, or other disinfectants, are where they should be. Chlorine is used in pool water because it kills germs and bacteria, oxidises organic debris from sweat and other body fluids and oils, and fights algae. However, chlorine in itself is not always our friend, and we need to be careful not to swallow too much chlorinated pool water – even if it is completely bacteria free.

What You Should Know About The Chemicals In Your Pool Water

Firstly, don’t panic! Most of the tap water we drink has chlorine in it to kill harmful bacteria. Water filters can eliminate much of this chlorine, but we don’t have this option in our swimming pools. However, it is important to remember that the immediate benefits of disinfection that chlorine provides far outweigh any potential long-term exposure risks to chlorinated pool water. We are definitely far better off having chemicals in our pools than not, provided the levels are monitored. You may get a stomach ache if your drink a glass of chlorinated pool water, but accidentally swallowing the odd mouthful is generally not harmful.

Having said that, it’s still good practice to do the following, especially if you swim professionally, or for a school team, and so spend a longer-than-average amount of time in the pool:

  • Shower before and immediately after swimming.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water before you swim so that you are nicely hydrated.
  • Try to eat foods high in anti-oxidants, such as dark-skinned fruit and vegetables.

Don’t let any of this worry you or gross you out. Come and chat to the experts at Pool Spa & Filtration. We can advise you on the best products to use to make sure your pool water is completely safe for you and your loved ones to swim in. We’re also experts when it comes to fish ponds, aquariums, Jacuzzis and spas, and we stock a wide range of submersible lights and transformers.