SHOCKING: If you use a public pool, you NEED to read this

From Justin Dove, Editor, The Crux:

You may want to think twice before hopping in that public pool or hot tub this summer…

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there may be some unpleasant surprises waiting for you.

From Quartz.com

Contrary to common belief, it’s not chlorine – not chlorine by itself, anyway – that reddens your eyes. It’s the chemical compounds formed when chlorine reacts with human urine.

That’s according to the Healthy Swimming Program, a collaboration between the US Centers for Disease Control, the Water Quality and Health Council, and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (h/t Women’s Health).

The prevailing association of red-eye with chlorine hints at how common the ailment is – and, therefore, how much urine we’re splashing around in. It also has some high-profile apologists. Olympian swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have confessed to sneaking an underwater leak, as Quartz reported last year.

And if you think red-eye is bad, it gets worse…

Recent research reveals that chlorine’s reaction with two chemicals in urine — urea and uric acid — creates two poisonous gases that can hurt people’s lungs, hearts, and central nervous systems.

On top of all that, chlorine doesn’t kill some of the most insidious types of bacteria fast enough to prevent infections. For instance, a bacteria called Cryptosporidium – “Crypto” for short – can linger in chlorinated pools for days.

In spite of widespread chlorine use, outbreaks of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) have climbed in the past decade, says the CDC. During that time, more than 20,000 people have picked up diarrheal illnesses from water they swallowed in U.S. swimming pools, water parks, and other disinfected swimming venues.

How might bacteria be getting into pools in the first place?

Brace yourself for ick. It seems that bathers aren’t just peeing in pools; they’re also leaking diarrhea. The CDC advises people to “never swim when you have diarrhea.”

Luckily, the CDC also reported some simple ways to protect yourself. From CNN

“We recommend that you not pee or poop in the water and shower before you go in,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Health Swimming Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2010 CDC report found that one out of 10 public pools don’t have proper chlorine levels. To make sure you’re not about to take a dip in a bacteria-laden pool, “you can use pool test strips at a pool supply or big box store” to check the chlorine level, Hlavsa said. (The CDC recommends chlorine levels in pools between 1 and 3 parts per million and pH of 7.2 to 7.8.)

Even at the right levels, chlorine does not wipe out everything. A new CDC report found that a parasite called cryptosporidium, which can cause diarrhea and lives up to 10 days in a chlorinated pool, was associated with 37 (54%) of the 69 outbreaks of illness at pools and water parks. “To protect yourself, it’s about not swallowing the water you swim in, and to protect others don’t swim if you have diarrhea,” Hlavsa said.

Something to keep in mind this summer. Pass it on…

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