Long Story Short
A team of scientists in Canada have measured how much of an average pool’s water is actually pee, and it’s disturbingly high.
It’s not something most people like to think about, but it’s natural to ask the question: how many people have used my pool as their own personal toilet?
The answer is, a lot. 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. It’s quite a bit.
The team measured how much artificial sweetener is in the average person’s urine, and used that as a yardstick to measure pee content in a pool. Because some sweeteners exit the body quickly and don’t easily break down in pool water, it’s believed their presence is an accurate representation of pee volume. Specifically, they were looking for the sweetener acesulfame potassium (Ace-K).
According to their calculations, there is an average 20 gallons of pee in your average commercial-sized 220,000-gallon pool. There is about two gallons of it in a 20’ by 40’ by 5’ residential pool. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually only one-hundredth of one percent. Nevertheless, it’s enough to be a health concern, and to give off that pool-y, pee-y smell.
The researchers measured 250 samples from 31 actively-used pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities and compared it to 90 samples of the clean tap water that was used to fill them. Levels of Ace-K in pools and hot tubs were up to 570 times than those found in tap water.
Too much pee in a pool can be a health hazard: when chlorine reacts with pee it creates toxic compounds called disinfection byproducts, which can lead to eye and respiratory ailments, and occupational asthma. Indoor pools are worse incubators than outdoor ones, as natural sunlight can break down harmful chemical compounds.
The study appeared this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
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Ask The Big Question
Will knowing that you’re about to dive into a pool full of piss change your swimming habits?
Drop This Fact
The average pool pee-er discharges approximately 70 ml of pee per pool.