Feature

Health scare of the week: Is the pool a cesspool?

Filthy pool habits cause numerous outbreaks of summertime “recreational water illnesses” such as diarrhea, ear and skin infections, and respiratory illness.

Chances are you’ll find yourself in a swimming pool this summer. A new study has some bad news: You might be doing the backstroke in a toilet. When asked about their behavior in swimming pools, 20 percent of people admit to peeing whenever nature calls. And researchers say urine is just one of the many contaminants found in pools used by lots of people. Babies swim in diapers filled with urine and feces. Some people work out and, covered with sweat, dive in without showering first. Sick children paddle about, shedding viruses and bacteria with every stroke. Filthy pool habits, scientists say, add up to numerous outbreaks of summertime “recreational water illnesses” such as diarrhea, ear and skin infections, and respiratory illness. When swimmers fill pool water with their effluvia, epidemiologist Michele Hlavsa tells LiveScience, chlorination cannot guarantee that you won’t get sick. “Unhygienic behavior brings germs into the pool and makes it harder for chlorine to do its job,” she says.

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