Researchers Measure the Amount of Urine In Swimming-Pools

Toni Houston
March 3, 2017

A group of researchers led by chemist Xing-Fang Li at the University of Alberta have developed a method of determining how much of the liquid in a pool is actually urine. All eight hot tubs listed had high urine content; a Jacuzzi in one hotel "had more than three times the concentration of sweetener than in the worst swimming pool".

One pool, which was one-third the size of an Olympic pool, accumulated 75 litres of urine over two weeks - "enough to fill a medium-sized dustbin", says The Guardian.

The National Post reports a recent study found your average public swimming pool contains the equivalent of about 20 milk jugs of urine.

The researchers also tested 250 samples from 31 pools and hot tubs from two unnamed Canadian cities. ACE is an artificial sweetener that is often used in processed foods and other consumer products.

The results? In some cases, about 0.01% of pool water is urine. "We should all be considerate of others and make sure to exit the pool to use the restroom when nature calls".


Nineteen per cent of adults have peed in a pool, according to a 2012 survey of Americans.

The discovery of an accurate urinary marker means that urine can be more accurately measured in pools. Urine can mix with other pool chemicals and create disinfection byproducts (DBPs), which could lead in unsafe reactions such as red eyes, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Will it stop me from swimming in a public pool? Long-term exposure by professional swimmers and pool workers may be linked to asthma, but otherwise it's unlikely to cause many problems. Even Olympic winners such as Michael Phelps even thought it was acceptable behavior for everyone to do it, to pee in pools since "chlorine kills it".

Jmaiff Blackstock and colleagues say this evidence has highlighted the need for improved understanding of pool chemistry to raise awareness and educate the public on the importance of swimming hygiene practices.

The research was published on Wednesday in the Environmental Science and Technology Letters journal. Urine is sterile, but it contains many compounds, such as urea, ammonia and creatinine, which can react with disinfectants in pools such as chlorine, according to the study.

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