Did you know that the stingy and distinctive smell of the pool water is because of the chemical compounds that build up in the water when it is treated improperly? Chloramines are produced by the combination of chlorine disinfectants and organic compounds like perspiration, oils and “urine” that enters the pool.
Yes, you read that right, urine!
So now, as we have surely ruined your next swimming trip, let us discuss the real amount of pee that can be present in the public pool. The researchers at the University of Alberta (UA) have conducted a study to give solid numbers on the volume of urine through which we have to swim, and while the unsavory conundrum’s results are a drop-in-the-ocean kind of proportions, it’s still pretty disgusting!
The scientists tracked the levels of urine in public pools by looking for traces of a telltale artificial sweetener in the water. The chemical is known as acesulfame potassium or ACE for short and is widely present in processed foods and diet sodas. Since it doesn’t stay in the body and passes right through, it is a good measure of detecting urine of at least those people who consume it.
The team started their research by taking 29 samples in two Canadian cities and found alarmingly elevated levels of ACE. Then, they tried to put the proportions in perspective by using the same method to track urine levels in two major public pools on the span of three weeks, one with a 420,000 liter (111,000 gallons) capacity and the other with an 830,000 liter (220,000 gallons) capacity.
The results of the three-week period estimated that swimmers leaked around 75 liters (20 gallons) of body waste into the 830,000-liter pool, and 30 liters (8 gallons) of the waste into the 420,000 liters one. So, the total pee amounts to around 0.009 and 0.007 percent of the total pool water, which doesn’t look too bad.
But, just the prospect of 75 liters of pee filling up the pool water and contaminating it means, bye-bye to the public pools for me!
The scientists note that while urine is sterile on its own, releasing it in a swimming pool with all the nitrogen components like ammonia and urea can lead to the creation of disinfectants. It can even result in the creation of some harmful products, such as trichloramine, which is eye and lung irritant and also leads to asthma.
The research was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
“We wanted to focus on urine because when there is a fecal incident at a swimming pool, everybody knows about it,” says UA PhD student Lindsay Blackstock. “The pool has to be evacuated and then shocked. On the other hand, urination in a pool really goes unnoticed and a lot of people might be doing it.”
Why can’t people just stop by the restroom before diving in?