It’s summer, and that means health organizations will be periodically showering Americans with reminders of how public swimming venues are actually nightmarish cesspits teeming with microbes that can burn your eyes, ravage your intestines, and eat your brains.
In attempts to communicate some pretty basic health advice—like, don’t pee or poop in a public pool and try to avoid gulping toxic algae from lakes—health organizations create a mesmerizing fountain of hilarious, graphic, disturbing, clumsy, and sometimes perplexing advisories.
Given this wellspring of vomitus summer fun, here are our picks for the top five public health advisories bobbing in the waters this summer.
5. The soiled euphemism
As you’ll see in the top picks, many health organizations dive head first into the poopy waters, fully embracing the fecal facts and not shying away from depicting biological flotsam. But the Virginia Department of Health is too demure for any of that, apparently. No, while other health organizations sink low, the VDH goes high, rising above the stomach-churning tides… or at least it tried.
In this valiant but ultimately failed attempt at defecation decorum, the VDH provides the most squeaky-clean image and polite message—only to end it with a blunt, well, “poop.” Not “stool” or “feces” mind you; just “poop.” It was a close one, but sadly, the pristine pool-side scene and quaint, grandma-approved euphemism are abruptly sullied by a last-minute turd bomb.
4. Germ bombs away
The next selection holds nothing back. It can occasionally be found swirling around state and local health departments but was initially flushed from the bowels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masters of infamous infographics.
While the ballistic factoids ostensibly relate to pool safety and the rationale for trying to avoid swallowing pool water, the infographic best functions as a general reminder that humans are inherently filthy animals that should probably only be swimming in vast vats of hand sanitizer.
The image “What’s in your cannonball?” catalogs the amounts of microbes in human hair, skin, poop, noses, mouths, and hands—without mentioning that many of them are actually harmless or even beneficial organisms. But that’s not all: With any pool launch, you’re firing off one to two soda cans worth of human sweat, a cup of pee, and, if you’re a child, 10 grams of poop.
Who’s ready for a swim?
Beth is Ars Technica’s Senior Health Reporter. Beth has a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attended the Science Communication program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She specializes in covering infectious diseases, public health, and microbes.