It’s one of the grand American summer traditions: Joking about quietly peeing in the pool. It’s one of many reasons you don’t invite Ryan Lochte to your house, in fact. But apparently, it also can actually kill you.
At least, that’s what the National Swimming Pool Foundation (and yes, that really exists) found in a study they commissioned. The problem is, essentially, that you’re in a body of water full of chlorine.
Chlorine in of itself is nasty, nasty stuff: It’s highly reactive, and thus profoundly dangerous. Remember “mustard gas” in World War I? That was essentially straight chlorine gas. So, what happens when you pee into water full of this highly reactive element?
[The research team] mixed uric acid and chlorine, and within an hour, both trichloramine and cyanogen chloride formed. Though some uric acid comes from sweat, the scientists calculated that more than 90 percent of the compound in pools comes from urine. They conclude that swimmers can improve pool conditions by simply urinating where they’re supposed to — in the bathrooms.
To give you an idea of how nasty those are, you have to report any manufacture of cyanogen chloride to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and trichloramine is so ridiculously explosive the guy who discovered it lost half his hand and an eye. So, yeah, this is not the kind of stuff you want around you!
Now, it’s true that you would basically have to fill a pool with urine and chlorine before you got an exploding pool that sprays a deathly toxic gas everywhere. On the other hand, isn’t swimming in a highly diluted toxic element enough? Pee in the bathroom, for God’s sake.