Science Tuesday: Pee in my pool and you’ll die (literally)

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

Spring has finally revealed itself to Boston (well sort of). I can only think of all the fun things I’ll do once it really becomes warm out. I’ll wear flip-flops and I’ll hide under beach umbrellas, and the pool will become my second home.

As a kid, I thought I could be a mermaid, if I really wanted to, so I did what any nerdy kid would have done — I adapted. I got a pair of swimming flippers, wore blue, shiny swimsuits,  goggles and earplugs. Yep, I was that weird, nerdy Indian chubster who thought she was a fish. So when I said I lived in the pool, I mean it, especially during the hot summer months. My cousins and I stayed in the pool for hours and never got out, except when we were hungry. And I’m trying to beat around the bush, but (here it goes) I know we all probably just peed in the pool between snack times. What was the harm, right? We’re just kids playing ‘Colors’ and ‘Silent Pass’ and ‘Spider’ and we don’t have time to waste to get out of the pool and go the bathroom. The world was our oyster, so what did the pool become? Well, it was the deep ocean and a playground and the Seven Seas where we sailed in a ship, but it also became a potty.

My logic was, ‘Well, the chlorine will kill all the bacteria anyway,’ but according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from China Agricultural University and Purdue University found that when uric acid hits the chlorinated pool, it creates two chemical byproducts: cyanogen chloride and thrichloramine.

Okay, big science words that mean nothing to the average person, but according to Discover, when these chemicals are inhaled, they can affect organs like the lungs, heart and the central nervous system. It turns out, we were all swimming in a toxic waste. And I say ‘we’ because I know you all peed in the pool at least once as a kid, so don’t even play.

In the study, researchers looked at the different levels of cyanogen chloride and trichloramine in correlation to the ratio of the precursors, the pH and the temperature of the water, io9 reports. They also looked into swimming pools that already had these two chemicals and found that when they added more uric acid, the cyanogen chloride increased as well, while trichloramine varied in increase levels.

So, I’m thinking that I’m going to avoid all public pools from now on, but I don’t think I can avoid the seashore. There are all kinds of animals living in the ocean anyway doing God knows what. If they can survive, so can I. After all, I’m a mermaid, remember? I’ll adapt, just not in the kiddie pool.

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