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How Much Pee Is in That Pool? The Answer May Surprise You

Though few ‘fess up to it, new evidence says everyone’s doing it.

Though kids are often blamed for this deviant act, germ-concerned swimmers have long suspected the problem of urine in pools to be far more widespread. Fortunately, scientists at the University of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada have recently devised a test that estimates the precise quantity of urine in a public pool.

Frequent swimmer? You might want to stop reading now.

The researchers used the test to track the quantity of pee in 31 public pools in two Canadian cities. The test measures the concentration of acesulfame potassium (ACE), an artificial sweetener typically found in processed foods which passes through the digestive system intact.

The sweetener levels in one pool, which was roughly one-third of the size of an Olympic pool, indicated that swimmers had released a total of 19 gallons — that’s about enough to fill one of these plastic tubs — over the three-week study period. In another pool about half the size, researchers detected around 8 gallons. That’s enough to fill a mop bucket.

According to one of the leading authors on the study, the findings provide compelling evidence that people are indeed pissing in public pools. You think?

However, the researchers didn’t monitor how many people visited the pools during those three weeks, so there’s no way to know what percentage of pool-goers were too lazy to get up and walk to the change room when they had to pee.

The quantity of urine is enough to suggest that pee was being covertly added to the pools on a daily basis. And believe it or not, public pools weren’t even the worst of it. Based on the findings, hot tubs aren’t safe, either.

The sweetener measurements from the eight hot tubs tested were found to have significantly higher urine levels than the pools. One hotel Jacuzzi was so bad it had more than three times the concentration of ACE than the worst swimming pool!

So should you still jump in? Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps claims “Chlorine kills it, so it’s not bad.” (Take this advice with a grain of salt — professional swimmers are most likely to admit to peeing in pools.)

The truth is that certain compounds in urine — such as ammonia, urea, and creatinine — can react with disinfectants, forming by-products that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system. Long-term exposure, for instance in people who work in and around pools, has even been linked to respiratory issues, such as asthma.

In the end, it’s up to you. Personally, I’d skip the hot tub.

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[Image via Shutterstock]

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