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Golden Coast
LATEST NEWS
UrineInPoolsStudy
Canadian Study Highlights Volume Of Urine In Public Pools
New research from scientists in Alberta, Canada has confirmed what we all feared about public swimming pools but few will admit – and the results won’t leave you feeling relieved!

Lindsay Blackstock looked for telltale signs of urine in public pools by searching for traces of artificial sweeteners, specifically acesulfame potassium.

More commonly known as Ace-K, acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetener which is present and consumed in many soft drinks, baked goods and countless other processed foods. Companies use it as a calorie-free sweetener because it is resistant to decomposition by the human digestive system.

“These sweeteners are consumed widely by the general public in processed foods, they are extremely stable and we don’t metabolize them, so they pass through our bodies and are not completely broken down,” explained the PhD student in analytical and environmental toxicology.

Previous research had used such sweeteners to get an indication of the level of human waste in environmental water bodies, but the University of Alberta study was the first to employ the same idea for recreational waters, Blackstock said.

In the initial phase of the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Blackstock and her supervisor, environmental toxicology researcher Xing-Fang Li, tested samples from 29 swimming pools in two Canadian cities and in all cases, elevated levels of the sweetener were present.

The team then tracked the levels of urine in just two of the public pools for a three-week period. One pool contained 830,000 litres of water and the other 420,000 litres. During that time, the researchers estimated that swimmers deposited 75 litres of urine into the larger pool and 30 litres into smaller pool.

Without having statistics of how many people used the pools or knowing how much the average urinator expelled in a session, Blackstock said it’s difficult to say how widespread the practice is.

“We wanted to focus on urine because where there is a fecal incident at a swimming pool, everybody knows about it. The pool has to be evacuated and then shocked,” said Blackstock. “On the other hand, urination in a pool really goes unnoticed and a lot of people might be doing it.”

Although largely sterile, urine can still pose a health risk.

Blackstock explained the nitrogen-containing components found in urine, like urea and ammonia, can react with the pool disinfectants to form byproducts such as trichloramine, which have been found to be eye and lung irritants. In fact, prolonged exposure to trichloramine has been linked to occupational asthma in professional swimmers and staff working in pool areas.

And while trichloramine can be found in a pool for a variety of reasons, perhaps a reaction between pool chlorine and sweat or certain hygiene products, “a full bladder of those compounds in the pool is really not helping the situation.”

Blackstock said the study was not meant to cast a shadow on disinfectant in pools or scare people out of the pool, noting that swimming is a great form of exercise and recreation and that its health benefits far outweigh the risks.

“Our main message is about public health and good swimming hygiene. Pee in the pool is a simple problem to fix – just don't do it.”





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