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Why Is There So Much Poop in Swimming Pools?

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By Jon Terbush

Who would've guessed Caddyshack would prove so prophetic?

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than half of all public pools had tested positive for E. coli, the bacteria most commonly associated with fecal matter.

In the study, the CDC sampled water from filters in 161 public swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor, in the Atlanta, Ga., area. Of those samples, 58 percent showed signs of E. coli. Though the researchers could not definitively blame human waste for the results, they wrote that it "signifies that swimmers introduced fecal material into pool water."

"It is time to stop treating the swimming pool as a toilet," Michele Hlavsa, head of the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program, told NBC. "Nowhere else except for the pool is it acceptable to poop in public or pee in public. In other places if we did this in public, we'd be arrested."

So what's the blame for the stinky problem?

Children, specifically diapered babies and those who aren't toilet trained, can easily introduce poop into the water — a "formed fecal incident," as the CDC kindly calls it. (There's a reason for the kiddie pool.)

However, children aren't alone in fouling the water. The report also faults adults for poor pre-swim etiquette, noting that those who dive in without first properly showering—with soap—can bring traces of fecal matter with them. And just in case you needed another reason not to pee in the pool, the report says that traces of sweat and urine inhibit chlorine's ability to clean water. In short, going number one makes it that much worse when someone else goes number two.

Swimmers ill with diarrhea greatly increase the risk of contamination. So, the report says, you really shouldn't swim in a public pool if suffering from intestinal troubles. Even if there's no sign telling you not to, which was the case at 70 percent of the pools the CDC checked, it's still a bad idea.

Though the CDC confirmed that public pools are pretty gross, they're not necessarily hazardous. Researchers never confirmed any illness related to the pool water, and as the report states, "Results alone cannot be used to determine whether the detected pathogens were viable or infectious or determine the level of swimmer risk."

Plus, the report looked only at pools in the Atlanta area, so the results might not be representative of the country as a whole.

Still, the report asked that everyone kindly use a bathroom when they have to use the bathroom, to ensure that people are the only floaters found in pools this summer.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
How Long Could a Person Survive With an Unlimited Supply of Water, But No Food at All?
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How long could a person survive if he had unlimited supply of water, but no food at all?

Richard Lee Fulgham:

I happen to know the answer because I have studied starvation, its course, and its utility in committing a painless suicide. (No, I’m not suicidal.)

A healthy human being can live approximately 45 to 65 days without food of any kind, so long as he or she keeps hydrated.

You could survive without any severe symptoms [for] about 30 to 35 days, but after that you would probably experience skin rashes, diarrhea, and of course substantial weight loss.

The body—as you must know—begins eating itself, beginning with adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and next the muscle tissue.

Google Mahatma Gandhi, who starved himself almost to death during 14 voluntary hunger strikes to bring attention to India’s independence movement.

Strangely, there is much evidence that starvation is a painless way to die. In fact, you experience a wonderful euphoria when the body realizes it is about to die. Whether this is a divine gift or merely secretions of the brain is not known.

Of course, the picture is not so pretty for all reports. Some victims of starvation have experienced extreme irritability, unbearably itchy skin rashes, unceasing diarrhea, painful swallowing, and edema.

In most cases, death comes when the organs begin to shut down after six to nine weeks. Usually the heart simply stops.

(Here is a detailed medical report of the longest known fast: 382 days.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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