Myth Busted! Poll Finds Most Parents Believe Pool Urine Detecting Dye Myth Is True

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s the most widely told pool myth of all time: Don’t pee in the pool or the water will change color and everyone will know. Parents have long used the story of a chemical that changes color in the presence of urine to keep their children from peeing in the pool, and a new poll shows they believe it’s true.

A recent Mason-Dixon survey found that 52 percent of people believe there is a chemical that is added to pools to turn a conspicuous color in the presence of urine. In reality, no such chemical is used.  But there are ways to make sure the pool you are swimming in is healthy.

Experts say you can use a pool test kit, such as the free kit offered compliments of the Water Quality and Health Council, or even use your five senses to know if the pool you’re swimming in is healthy and well-maintained.

That’s important because your pool may not be as healthy as you think:  A recent study performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified E. coli, a bacterium commonly found in feces, in almost 60 percent of the public pool filters they sampled in the Atlanta area. This demonstrates swimmer hygiene is not what it should be.

And an earlier survey by the Water Quality and Health Council found that one in five Americans admit to peeing in the pool, 81 percent believe other people pee in the pool and 62 percent believe others fail to report that their infant or toddler pooped in their diaper/bathing suit in a public pool.

5 Swimming Pool Myths You Thought Were True That Aren’t

While the use of a urine-detecting chemical may be the biggest pool myth, other common aquatic urban legends include:

Myth – Swimming is not good for children with asthma.
Truth – Medical experts say swimming in a healthy, well-maintained pool is an excellent physical outlet for swimmers with asthma.  The Belgian Superior Health Council examined the relevant scientific studies and concluded that the available evidence does not support advising children against swimming in chlorinated pools.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other public health experts have asserted that swimming in a well-maintained pool is a healthy form of exercise for people with asthma.

Myth – Chlorine turns hair green.
Truth – The survey by the Water Quality and Health Council discovered that nearly half of respondents believe that chorine is responsible for turning hair green. In fact, the presence of copper in swimming pool water is to blame. Copper may be introduced to pool water in several ways, including metal plumbing or algaecide.

Myth – Swimmer “red eye” is caused by too much chlorine in the pool.
Truth – 87 percent of respondents to the Water Quality and Health Council survey believed that chlorine in pools makes swimmers’ eyes red and irritated. In reality, when nitrogen, found in urine and sweat, is combined with chlorine, irritants called chloramines are formed. It is these chloramines, not the chlorine itself, that irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system. In this case, more chlorine may actually need to be added to pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines.

Myth – When it comes to pool water, clarity means cleanliness.
Truth – Even when swimming pool water is clear, microorganisms too small to be seen with the naked eye can be present. While chlorine destroys bacteria that could put swimmers at risk for disease, it takes time to work. Most germs are killed within seconds in a properly treated pool, but some (such as Cryptosporidium) can survive for days and require more aggressive treatment.

Myth – The strong odor of chemicals indicates a clean, well-treated pool.
Truth – A faint smell is expected, but a strong scent of chemicals could mean trouble. When irritating chloramines are formed by the mixture of chlorine and pool contaminants, such as urine, body oils and other substances brought into the pool by swimmers, a strong smell is released. A healthy pool is one with little to no odor.

Test Your Pool

Even if swimming pool water looks clean, the water could be contaminated. Healthy Pools offers tips to use your senses to test the waters.

  • Sight – Make sure you can see clearly through the water to the floor of the pool.
  • Touch – Check for tiles that feel smooth and clean, not slimy.
  • Smell – Make sure there are no strong chemical odors.
  • Sound – Listen for the sound of the pool pump.
  • Taste – Avoid tasting and swallowing pool water!

To order a free pool test kit offered as part of the Water Quality and Health Council’s award-winning summer Healthy Pools awareness initiative, go to