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Is It Safe to Drink Pool Water?

Everyone has, accidentally or not, drank pool water at least once in their lifetime. It’s more common among kids, but it happens on adults too. Most of the time, people think it’s something normal and sometimes some people even say they can use the water in case of emergency. 

However, we know that most pool use disinfectant product, and such product has been widely linked to health problem.

It, of course, creates a question about how safe it is to drink pool water. To answer that question, we need to know what are the substances that exist in pool water—and what it can cause. 

What’s Inside Your Pool Water?

Every pool is different. It varies on how you maintain your pool water. The way you preserve it will affect the water’s substance.

We should start there to know whether or not your pool water is drinkable. Here we will cover a number of substances mostly found in pool water, under various conditions.

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Chlorine

Use of chlorine in pool water is pretty common
Use of chlorine in pool water is pretty common

As mentioned before, pool usually uses disinfectant. It is given because pool needs to be as clean as possible. Cleaning it out from bacteria and virus is something mandatory. However, disinfectant usually contains chlorine.

If you’ve been maintaining your pool properly, you’re going to find a plethora of harsh chemicals in the pool water.

Chlorine will interact with water and creates hypochlorous acid. It is good to use in wound, but not good to use internally.  

That is because hypochlorous acid can be mutagenic. It will react with organic matter inside your body (for example, the food in your stomach) and creates carcinogen.

Carcinogen means substance that has the potential to cause cancer because it can damage genome or disturb cellular metabolic processes.

That said, having a gulp out accident might not dangerous if it’s not becoming a habit. However, you really shouldn’t constantly drink highly chlorinated pool water because it will not be safe in the long run. One of the risk examples is bladder cancer. 

Ammonia

Urine, sweat, decaying organic matter such as rotting leaves, fertilizer and hygiene product can be the source of ammonia in your pool.

Ammonia itself is a strongly alkaline gas with a strong odor and it is very soluble when mixed in water. The process creates alkaline liquid known as ammonium hydroxide. However, products that contain ammonia are not the actual problem in pool water.  

The real problem comes from organic nitrogen which converts to nitrite, which then converts again to nitrates. Consuming too much nitrate can cause methemoglobinemia or blue baby syndrome.

Don’t worry though because small level of nitrates is still safe and there is a test to know how much nitrates the water is. The recommended level for nitrates used for drinking is no more than 10 ppm.

Below that level, it should be fine to drink from your pool water. However, remember that the existence of ammonia and chlorine in pool is not mutually exclusive. 

Salt Water

Salt water in swimming pool
Salt water in swimming pool

If you are not really into chemical disinfectant, using saltwater for your swimming pool might be a good solution.

However, saltwater is obviously not for drinking. Although the human’s body can ingest salt, it is only at a small amount. Saltwater has more salt than we can safely process.  

The problem arises because while salt is needed to maintain chemical balances in your body, it can be dangerous to consume a lot of it.

Kidneys can only convert water to urine if it is less salty compared to saltwater. The more you drink it, the more you must urinate to get rid of the redundant salt in your body. Eventually drinking or swallowing on pool water will lead to dehydration.  

Algae and Insects

Swimming pool filled with algae
Swimming pool filled with algae

Disinfectant substance is not good when it combined to the pool water, however, letting it under no maintenance is even worse.

Pool water that is left long enough without any cleaning will eventually grow algae. When algae come, then insects like mosquito will definitely come too.  

It goes without saying that if your pool is in such condition, never, ever, drink from it. Drinking pool water with algae can lead to gastroenteritis which can induce vomiting, diarrhea, fevers and headaches. 

The endnotes, swallowing a small amount of pool water mostly won’t harm you.

However, do not purposely drink pool water in high amount because mostly, in various conditions, it is not safe. Hopefully this article can help you illuminate your curiosity on that matter. 

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