Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

March 2014

To Combat Bad Air, Change Bad Habits

A couple of years ago, research from the Water Quality and Health Council made news when it revealed just how many people confessed to peeing in public pools. Now, new research published in Environmental Science & Technology reveals more of the repercussions of such bad behavior on swimmers' health.

The 2012 survey from the Water Quality and Health Council found that one in five American adults said they had used a public pool as a public toilet. (And if one in five grownups are doing it, one can only imagine how many kids are taking the proper potty break.)

According to new research from Lushi Lian, E Yue, Jing Li and Ernest R. Blatchley, the compounds in urine mix with the chlorine used to disinfect pools to form chemicals that have a negative effect on air quality around the pool, and can lead to respiratory issues for swimmers.

Air quality issues in indoor pools have long been a concern in the industry, with many advocating new technologies, air circulation methods and varying water treatment methods to help deal with the problems. Many have wondered whether the respiratory issues are caused when swimmers breathe in the byproducts of disinfection. As it turns out, fixing the problem could be as simple as telling people not to pee in the pool.

"If swimmers avoided urinating in pools, then air and water quality would likely improve independent of other changes in water treatment or air circulation," the scientists wrote in the article, "Volatile Disinfection Byproducts Resulting From Chlorination of Uric Acid: Implications for Swimming Pools," in Environmental Science & Technology.

Lab experiments conducted by the authors showed that uric acid accounted for 24 percent to 68 percent of the byproduct cyanogen chloride, which can affect the lungs, heart and nervous system through inhalation, in pool water samples. Uric acid was also to blame for 3 percent to 4 percent of trichloramine, which has been implicated in reduced lung function, as well as itchy eyes and runny noses.

The research emphasizes how important it is to educate swimmers about proper pool etiquette. Showering before getting in the water, and getting out of the water when it's time for a bathroom break, are two crucial steps in reducing the amount of urine in the pool—and the effects its presence can have on swimmers' health.

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