Super Bowl Commercial Highlights Pee in the Pool Taboo
Chris Wiant, MPH, PhD

Oh, the power of suggestion of running water…the overwhelming sense of urgency elicited. The little boy in this year’s TaxACT Super Bowl XLVI commercial is in the family swimming pool when he realizes he has to go! He tries to do the right thing: He leaves the pool and dashes through the house in search of an open bathroom. But luck is not on his side. Every bathroom is occupied and to make matters worse, as he races from room to room, the little guy is tormented by the sight of water streaming from the washing machine and steam shooting from the tea kettle. Desperate, he plunges back into the pool where relief floods his face. Yes, he pees in the pool. But he tried valiantly to avoid it.

In 2009 the Water Quality & Health Council conducted a public survey that found one in five American adults admit to having peed in a pool. The news made headlines and focused attention on this unsanitary practice.

Peeing in the pool is a lose/lose proposition because:

  • Swimmer urine depletes chlorine that would otherwise be available to destroy waterborne germs.
  • Chlorine reacts with urine to produce compounds called chloramines that irritate the eyes and skin of swimmers.

At the end of the commercial, the boy appears smug with the knowledge that he has tainted the pool for his sister. The truth is that no one wins when pool water quality is degraded.

Speaking of winning, it is estimated that over 111 million people viewed the Super Bowl commercials as the Giants out-battled the Patriots in the big showdown. While fans were surely amused at the comical conclusion of the TaxACT commercial, let’s hope many of those viewers will be as motivated as our little protagonist was to get out of the pool the next time the urge strikes—and return only after using the bathroom.

Chris Wiant, M.P.H., Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation. He is also chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.

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