Today’s Unit Conversion Error: Poop in Pools

May 17th, 2013

A friend on Facebook brought my attention to a very interesting article from NBC News:

People always worry about pee in the pool, but number two is the No. 1 problem, government health experts say. They found plenty of evidence that someone’s pooping in the pool. It’s not only disgusting, but it’s evidence that people are not following basic hygiene rules, says Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Swimming Program.

“It is time to stop treating the swimming pool as a toilet,” Hlavsa told NBC News. “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.”

The pool-poo expert went on to say:

“The average person has about .14 grams of feces on their rear end,” Hlavsa said. “If that rinses off into the water, the amount from one person might not be that much. But as more and more swimmers introduce it that much, it does become an issue.”

She’s actually done the math.

“Let’s imagine 1,000 kids go to a water park. They have as much as 10 grams of feces on their rear ends,” she said.  “We are now talking about 10,000 grams or 10 kg. That translates to 24 pounds of poop in the water.”

I am willing to grant Hlavsa’s obscenely high estimate of 10 grams of poo per bottom—which does lead to 10 kg of poo per 1000 bottoms—but that does not equate to 24 pounds! The correct conversion factor for poo (or any other substance at the surface of Earth) is 2.2 pounds per kg.

I am immensely relieved her hypothetical pool contains only 22 lbs. of poo.

10 Responses to “Today’s Unit Conversion Error: Poop in Pools”

  1. John Spevacek Says:

    I’ll bet you are flushed with excitement for finding that error.

  2. Paul Says:

    It’s my doody to point out crappy mathematical errors.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    There’s a big difference between 0.14 g and 10 g of poo. We’re in skidmark v. nugget territory. How much did these children have to drink the night before?

  4. John Spevacek Says:

    But we all know that pointing out errors in this case is a crappy job. Just saying. I think I’ll skat-ole long now…

  5. Paul Says:

    @Anonymous: I completely agree. To me, 140 mg of poop on the average person seems wrong. I’d love to know how they arrived at this value. They should also report a standard deviation.

    And, of course, the 10 g estimate/hypothetical per bottom is absurd. Assuming the turds have the density of water, we’re talking 10 mL of poo per bottom. That’s like hiding three fun-size Tootsie Rolls. They’d probably drop out of someone’s shorts when they changed to get in the pool.

  6. Hap Says:

    1) I would have figured that even overworked lifeguards would notice a couple of kilograms of poop in the pool.

    2) If kids are carrying that much poop, they’re going to be very unpopular just about anywhere unless they’re all two and can get away with it. Mommy and Daddy probably aren’t filled with joy if their kids are carrying that around, either, unless they’re the source of the hygiene, um, training. In that case, Mommy and/or Daddy’s coworkers must be happy, too.

    Is someone trying to drum up funding or avoid sequester-related cuts?

  7. The Iron Chemist Says:

    If you’ve got that much poop smeared on your bottom, you should learn how to wipe better.

  8. ag Says:




  9. Tim Says:

    This decimal-related debacle reminded me of the Verizon incident: George Vaccaro recorded his epic struggle with call centre managers, who repeatedly maintained that 0.002cents/kB is exactly the same thing as $0.002/kB.

  10. Dan Says:

    Haha, maybe our unit conversion software should have been used!

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