There’s a Reason Pools Smell the Way They Do—and It’s Not Chlorine

Spoiler alert: It's gross.

Ignore This Pool Rule At Your Own Peril!iStock/Martin-Barraud

Even though accidents can happen hopefully, all adults know peeing in a pool is certainly not cool. And if the thought of soaking in a stranger’s bodily secretions like sweat, saliva, or urine is not enough to gross you out, science also proves why tinkling in the water can cause serious health concerns amongst swimmers.

The American Chemical Society has released a shocking video revealing how our own waste can poorly interact with pool disinfectants. According to the researchers, swimming pools contain an average of 30 to 80 ml of urine per person. When our bodily fluids—including pee and sweat—mix with cleaning chemicals like chlorine, which are used in swimming pools to keep the water sanitized, it creates harmful chemical compounds called DBPs (disinfection byproducts). DBPs can cause dangerous side effects, including aggravation of asthma symptoms, skin irritations, and burning and red eyes. Testing has shown that DBPs can cause genetic damage to cells in lab settings. Other reports show that some people who swim or work in and around pools have higher rates of certain health problems, including respiratory symptoms and even bladder cancer, according to research from the American Chemical Society.

And the trouble with contamination doesn’t end there. Remember the pool smell that catapults you right back to your fun summers at camp? Scientists share evidence that the memorable scent is concocted from two ingredients, human excretions and water. That’s enough to make anyone bury their swimsuit and go for a hike instead.

Bottom line: Don’t be shallow! It’s smarter and safer for everyone to head straight to the bathroom stall before splashing around. Hoping we didn’t completely gross you out about pools, here are some of the most breathtaking pools in the world.

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Hope Daniels
Hope Daniels is a contributor to's Lifestyle section, where she writes about life’s gifts and slips. From the depths of personal routine habits to a hilarious look at social blunders her articles have also appeared on partner sites, the, family and Her work in parenting and pop-culture has also been published on and ScaryMommy. She earned her BA in Journalism from Indiana University.