Friday, 24 March, 2017

How much pee is in your pool? Science has an answer

Arand via Getty Images Arand via Getty Images
Tracy Craig | 06 March, 2017, 00:30

It's something we may suspect but usually don't want to think about too much.

Blackstock said testing results for hot tubs tended to be the most variable, with either really high or really low concentrations of the sweetener. "The benefits of keeping active through swimming outweigh the potential risks we use as rationale for the study", said Blackstock.

Canadian researchers recently leaked this information, saying that after monitoring two public pools for three weeks they found that one 110,000-gallon pool contained 7.92 gallons of urine and a 220,000-gallon public pool had almost 20 gallons of urine.

Before you dive into that hotel swimming pool, there's something you should know: There's probably human urine in there. A smaller pool had 30 litres. "To reduce exposure to N-DBPs and their negative health impacts in swimming pools, we should monitor and control water quality". It found concentrations of ACE in the pools and tubs, which were not named, that were up to 570-fold greater than in normal tap water.

Nitrogenous organics in urine can react with chlorine in swimming pools to form volatile and irritating N-Cl-amines. Based on those concentrations, they concluded that a 220,000-gallon commercial-size swimming pool likely contains nearly 20 gallons of urine.

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Although urine is sterile, it has compounds such as urea, ammonia and creatinine that react with disinfectants to produce the so-called disinfection byproducts, or DBPs, that can cause eye and respiratory irritation.

While that sounds like an very bad lot of pee, Blackstock explained that's just how much was necessary to get these levels of ACE.

Swimming in strangers' urine is not only gross, it's also potentially unsafe. Known as acesulfame potassium or ACE for short, the sweetener is widely consumed through processed foods and things like diet soda.

As it turns out, the joke's punchline could also serve as the title of a new University of Alberta study released Wednesday that employed a unique method to examine how often people might be polluting their local swimming pool. The study calculations were based on ACE concentration in water samples.

Over a three-week period, Xing-Fang Li (University of Alberta, Edmonton) and colleagues tested more than 250 water samples taken from 31 public pools and hot tubs in Canada. We recommend that all pool users should rinse off excess personal care products in the provided showers before entering public pools.

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