I'll admit it, when I was a kid I begged my parents to take us to the pool every day. We didn't have a pool at our house, so the public pool was my only option. I would swim for what felt like hours every day, although my mom says the only reason I liked going was because they sold 50 cent ice cream sandwiches. She's not totally wrong...
But now that I'm older, the idea of a public pool freaks me out on an infinite number of levels. The strangers, the outdoors, the thought of swimming in water that a bajillion other people have been in...it's not appealing.
There are a bunch of reasons that public pools are gross, and frankly we don't talk about it enough. These are some of the ones that grossed me out the most.
1. It's not chlorine you're smelling.
A big defense of public pools is that the chlorine used kills any bacteria. As Maury would say, this is a lie. It does try and kill as many germs as possible, but the amount of people in and out of a pool on a daily basis almost negate the effectiveness of the pool.
And I know what you're thinking..."But Meg, I can smell the chlorine at the pool." Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but that's not what you're smelling at all.
Water and Health warns that the scent we think is chlorine is actually a mixture of all the things the chlorine is trying to kill.
The chemical gets thrown into overdrive and begins absorbing other fluids, so the smellier the pool, the more likely it's filthy.
2. Pool, spelled Pee-O-O-L
If you pee in the pool, I'm going to need you to stop and evaluate your life choices. The Center For Disease Control surveyed 1,000 fully-grown adults, and 20% of them admitted to peeing in the pool. Taking into account that the other 80% are bold-faced liars, that's too many people.
If you assume that every pees about a quarter of a gallon each time they go, then you can also assume that a pool is basically half urine and I'm not okay with it. Granted, it won't hurt you...it's still gross.
"Contrary to popular belief, urine is not sterile — but the type of bacteria in urine which causes infections like UTIs is actually killed very easily by chlorine," Dr. Kelly Reynolds says.
3. Pool outbreaks are increasing.
There are a lot of diseases that can't be killed by chlorine, and the frequency of these outbreaks is growing. For example, cryptosporidium can cause weeks-long bouts of diarrhea, and there's no medication to stop it.
"Crypto is easily passed through feces and it causes most recreational water illness outbreaks, and even a few deaths, each year," Dr. Reynolds says. "We've reached an all-time high in recreational water outbreaks from cryptosporidium and other pathogens."
These "other pathogens" can include E. coli, shigella, campylobacter (food poisoning), vibrio, hepatitis A and typhoid. No thank you.
4. Just a little pool water can make you sick.
Have you ever accidentally swallowed a little bit of pool water? I have, and now knowing how much urine is in the water, I want to retroactively vomit.
Even if you're not taking a huge swig of water every time you swim, you could still be at risk for all those diseases I mentioned. A tiny bit of pool water can contain millions of germs which can wreak havoc on your immune system.
5. There's just...so much poop.
I'm letting you know that if you have a weak stomach, this is the section to skip.
"In a typical busy public pool or water park, there are several pounds of feces shed in the water by the end of the day," Dr. Reynolds says.
POUNDS. POUNDS OF POOP. It may as well be called a public poop. Even if you don't watch someone dropping a biscuit in the basket, we all have poop particles on ourselves at all times.
Adults have an average of 0.14 grams of fecal matter on their person at a time, which is the equivalent to the weight of one pea. Children have 100 times this amount on average.
There's saving grace, though. If a kid does decide to fertilize the flowers underwater, it doesn't start to spread right away.
"If the stool is hard and solid, you have a few minutes to get it out of the water before it dissipates, but if it's loose — it'll spread immediately," Dr. Reynolds says.
But that's assuming the child actually tells someone what happened.
Seeing a bandaid in a public pool is the equivalent to seeing a shark in the ocean. It's terrifying, and you're already too late to get away. If you have a skin issue, like a cut or blister, that requires a bandaid to swim, you shouldn't be swimming.
You're basically hopping in the pool with an open wound, which is not only bad for literally everyone around you, but also for yourself. The bacteria and germs in the pool should not be entering your body.
"But Meg, my bandaid says it's waterproof!"
Right, as in it won't come off when you wash your hands or whatever, but those bandaids don't actually stop the germs from spreading. Water can still get up and under the padding of your bandaid and then spread those germs to everyone else.
7. People don't shower.
How many people actually use that shower in the change rooms before going into the pool? There's always a sign asking you to, but few people actually follow through.
When I was a kid I thought it was just for after you swam, because you had to get the chlorine off. The reality is, you really should be showering before hopping into that cesspool, sorry...swimming pool.
"Showering both removes the bacteria and fecal matter from your body and it also rinses off all the sweat and products which will deplete the chlorine," Reynolds says. "This may be more of a cultural thing, even though it's primarily for our health and safety."