Michael Phelps was right – relieving yourself in the pool is fine
It may not be what everybody wants to hear but the swimming star Michael Phelps was right when he said it was OK to relieve yourself in the pool, claim scientists.
By Richard Alleyne and Hannah Furness
6:30AM GMT 28 Dec 2012
Phelps, the most successful Olympian ever, caused ripples of concern during London 2012 when he admitted that many swimmers “pee in the pool” especially during long training sessions.
But he said that it was OK as the chlorine killed any germs.
The revelation may have been slightly distasteful but now scientists have confirmed that at least his facts are right.
Sense About Science (SAS), a charity which aims to dispel commonly held myths, especially those promulgated by celebrities, congratulated him on being scientifically correct.
Stuart Jones, biochemist, said: “In fact Michael, urine is essentially sterile so there isn’t actually anything to kill in the first place.
“Chlorine just prevents bacteria from growing in the pool.
“So you’re basically right, peeing in a swimming pool, even if all swimmers do it simultaneously, has very little impact on the composition of the pool water itself.
“An Olympic size pool contains over 2 millions litres of water and a single urination is somewhere in the region of 0.2 litres.
“To have any significant effect on the overall composition of the pool water you’d need a serious amount of peeing!”
Phelp’s statement was one of the few accurate statements picked up by SAS during 2012.
Less convincing were claims made by Simon Cowell, who admitted to breathing pure oxygen to reduce tiredness, stress and ageing.
Kay Mitchell, Centre for Altitude Space and Extreme Environment, said far from being good for you it could be damaging.
She said that while it can be seen to help athletes under controlled conditions to make quicker recoveries more research was needed to confirm this effect.
“Doctors are also concerned about the damage caused by oxygen levels that are too high,” she said.
“This oxygen toxicity can cause cell damage leading to cell death, particularly in lungs where oxygen levels are highest, and so breathing pure oxygen can cause collapse of lung air sacs.
“This could make you susceptible to lung infections.”
Last year celebrities who extolled the virtues of detoxing and cleansing were also slammed by scientists.
Among them, Gwyneth Paltrow wrote on her blog Goop: “I have gooped about Dr Alejandro Junger’s Clean programme before because it gave me such spectacular results; it is really just the thing if you are in need of a good detox – wanting some mental clarity and to drop a few pounds … Here’s to a happy liver and an amazing 2011!”
Dr Christian Jessen, a GP and TV presenter said that, though everyone tried to start the New Year with good intentions for a healthy lifestyle, a detox plan was not the answer.
“Your body has its own fantastic detox system already in place in the shape of your liver and kidneys. Much better to drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and let your body do what it does best.”
Tracey Brown, managing director at SAS, said there was no excuse for celebrities promoting fad diets and treatments.
“Celebrity comments travel far and fast, so it is important that they talk sense about issues like dangerous dieting and medical treatments,” she said.