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The Whiz Kids of Summer

There is danger lurking in the water this summer and I'm not talking about the testicle-eating pacu fish spotted in an Illinois lake or even the great white shark that shut down a Cape Cod beach.

I'm referring to that summertime crime we all choose to ignore: pool pee.

One in five people admit to peeing in a swimming pool, according to a survey conducted by the Water Quality and Health Council.

We all know that at least three out of every five of those people were lying, so I'm sure the urine count is actually much higher.

Have you ever really seen a bathroom at a swimming pool occupied?

I thought about this recently on vacation as I sat around a crowded pool, watching kids splashing in the water while their parents congregated in the shallow end, sweating and sipping from their red Solo cups and Bubba Kegs for hours and hours, nobody bothering to ever get out.

In fact, if the Water Quality survey is correct, at least 10 of the people I spoke to in the pool that day were probably taking a discreet whiz during our conversations.

I'm sure each one was thinking, "What harm could it cause if I just take a quick leak in this big pool?"

Ecologist Garrett Hardin first dubbed this type of rationalization in the 1960s as "The Tragedy of the Commons." When multiple individuals act independently in their own self-interest, they ultimately have the power to destroy a shared, limited resource through their seemingly small actions, Hardin theorized.

I'm sure he was thinking about land or endangered species, but if you apply Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons to a crowded pool on a hot Florida day, it basically means that we're all swimming in one big communal toilet.

Even the Olympics' most decorated swimmer, Michael Phelps, has confessed to urinating in the water. In a 2008 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, the TV host asked the 14-gold medal winner, "You pee in the pool, true?"

"Yeah," Phelps replied.

"Which nationality pees in the pool the most?" Kimmel asked.

"Probably Americans," Phelps said.

Reminds me of the South Park episode where so many people peed in a water park that it was eventually destroyed by a tsunami of urine.

It may seem harmless, but the CDC actually has a


that urges people to please take bathroom breaks when they're swimming. Urine, along with sweat and sunscreen, contains nitrogen, which eats up a pool's free chlorine, leaving less of it to kill the stuff that can really make you sick if you accidentally swallow pool water. Combined with chlorine, pee also creates chloramines, the stuff that makes your eyes burn and turn red.

So when your kid is complaining of bloodshot eyes after swimming in the pool all day, it's not the chlorine that's bothering him, it's … well, you get the picture.

Which is why you'll find me sitting ocean-side this summer, with all the beach goers.

Great whites, I hear, do not urinate.