That sign in the locker room that says “shower before swimming” is not a mere suggestion. While very few of us would skip a post-swim shower (got to get that icky chlorine off!), we should probably follow the pre-swim rules a lot more.

One of the dirtiest problems for pools is that many don’t follow that one rule, making the pool much more dirtier than we ever imagined.

“If we don’t shower before we get in the water, we’re going to carry in whatever’s sitting on our skin,” says Michele Hlavsa, RN, MPH, an epidemiologist and the chief of Healthy Swimming and Waterborne Disease Prevention at the CDC. That includes natural oils, sweat, makeup and other personal care products, urine and, yep, fecal matter.

All of these materials have one thing in common, says Hlavsa: nitrogen. When nitrogen mixes with the chlorine in the pool, chemical irritants called chloramines are formed, which is problematic for two reasons, she says. The first issue is that some of the very-important chlorine is now being tied up as chloramines rather than protecting us from the germs in the pool. Chlorine still manages to kill most of them, thankfully, but the survivors, when swallowed or inhaled while swimming, lead to some 10,000 illnesses a year among Americans, LiveScience reported.

The second cause for worry is the chloramines are what’s making that pool smell like, well, a pool. That smell we often attribute to a clean pool is…

A Swimming Pool Is Dirtier Than You Ever Imagined  was originally published on

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