It's an all too familiar scenario: You're hanging out in the pool on a hot summer day, trying to stay cool, but your eyes eventually turn red and start burning. You start cursing the amount of chlorine in the water, but is that the real culprit? According to chemists, no.
Chlorine itself, when put into the pool properly, won't burn your eyes. However, it will bind to other chemicals, creating a product that will certainly cause you some irritation.
These irritants can get into your body in three ways: swallowing the water, absorbing it through your skin, and inhaling the particles. While the concentrations are pretty low in the average pool, large quantities of these irritants can cause significant respiratory problems.
Have you guessed where the two biggest contributors to volatile disinfection byproducts are?
The first of these is sweat.
Sure, nothing feels better than hopping in a pool after getting all sweaty from a morning run, a day of yard work, or even just existing when it's hot and humid, but we ask you to please keep your secretions out of the pool. When the chlorine tries to kill it, those nasty byproducts are made, and nobody likes that.
The second thing, you guessed it, is pee.
While some — including Olympians Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte — may justify peeing in a pool because the chlorine will take care of it, don't hold your breath. (Or maybe it would be better to in this situation... not sure)
Sure, any girl who has ever worn a one piece bathing suit will tell you it's extremely difficult to take off and put on a wet suit to take a bathroom break, but it's really important. The uric acid found in urine binds with the chlorine, turning it into a volatile disinfection byproduct and posing a risk.
Research is ongoing to see how other chemicals that are on the average person during the summer, like bug spray, deodorant, and lotions, interact with a chlorinated pool. They're also trying to figure out what they can do to break down these potentially harmful bonds, to make time in the pool