Be honest, have you ever peed in a pool? Well, somebody’s been doing it (wasn’t us, we swear)… and often, too.
A University of Alberta study found that there’s typically 75 litres of pee in a pool one-third the size of an official Olympic pool. Um, yuck?
“Even though no one would admit to peeing in a pool, obviously somebody has to be doing it,” said the study’s co-author, Lindsay Blackstock, a PhD student of analytical and environmental toxicology. “There is no other explanation for that (substance) to be present in the pools.”
Nope, there isn’t another explanation — none that we can think of, anyway. But we wish there was.
The study identified a urine marker called acesulfame potassium (aka Ace-K), an artificial sweetener humans ingest from all sorts of goodies like pop and baked treats, to figure out just how much pee is floating around our public pools. Ace-K doesn’t break down in the digestive system and exists in our urine as it did before we consumed it. (So, we suppose someone could be dumping a bunch of sweetener into public pools, but that doesn’t make much sense.)
Researchers gathered samples from 31 different hot tubs, dive tanks, public pools and hotel pools in two Canadian cities, which will remain nameless. Ace-K was identified in all the samples, but in quite a range of concentrations. By taking a deeper dive (metaphorically speaking) into two pools in particular, they were able to identify an average concentration of 150 to 200 nanograms of Ace-K per litre of pool water.
Pee levels aside, Blackstock remarked that urine isn’t all that bad for us, and any bacteria or pathogen from it will be killed by the pool’s chlorine. And the health benefits of getting the great cardiovascular exercise that swimming provides far outweighs any health risk of a little pee in your eyes/ears/mouth.
“I wouldn’t have any concerns about swimming,” she said. “I go swimming myself and my supervisor goes almost every day.”
So go ahead and dive in. Just maybe keep your mouth closed, and remember to shower afterward.