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This is how much pee you're actually swimming in (and it's in your drinking water, too)

Posted March 8

It’s gross but true. (Deseret Photo)

You pack your sunscreen, swimsuits and flip-flops and head off to your local pool for a day of family fun in the cool water....and urine? This new study says yes.

The truth about your pool water

Scientists studied 31 swimming pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities for acesulfame potassium (ACE), a synthetic sweetener that exits the body with you pee. They found urine in every pool tested, which consisted of swimming pools and hot tubs from hotels, recreational facilities, public facilities and even one private pool.

Their findings from two swimming pools revealed 75 liters (about 20 gallons) of urine in a 220,000-gallon pool and 30 liters (about eight gallons) in a 110,000-gallon pool. This means that if you’re swimming in an olympic-sized swimming pool, you are also probably swimming in 60 gallons of pee.

“Our study provides additional evidence that people are indeed urinating in public pools and hot tubs.” said Lindsay Blackstock, lead author.

It’s in your drinking water, too

If you accidentally swallow some water next time you’re at the pool, don’t worry. The disgusting truth is that you’ve probably drank pee before. Though the levels were much lower, researchers found some traces of ACE in tap water.

If you’re a swimmer, you might take some comfort in the fact that the urine results for the eight hot tubs were significantly higher than the pools. One hot tub had more than three times as much urine than the worst swimming pool, and half of the hot tubs had more urine per liter than the swimming pools.

It does affect your health

You might say, “Well, that’s what chlorine is there for!” But chlorine isn’t magic and can only do so much. This chemical actuall reacts with urine (and sweat) to create compounds (called disinfection byproducts) that could be toxic at certain levels.

Also, studies have shown a link between asthma and elite swimmers. But don’t be worried about your child developing asthma from a day at the pool. Findings from studying swimming and childhood asthma were “suggestive but not conclusive.” So even if your child is taking swim classes, there is no need for concern— the studies only showed a potential connection between asthma and long-term exposure to the pool water.

But studies show it isn’t so bad

These facts should not discourage people from swimming, said Clifford Weisel, an environmental health expert. In fact, studies show that you have a higher chance of drowning than being killed by bacteria in the pool.

While it may not kill you, all this pee in the is gross. Scientists hope their research will spread awareness and discourage people from peeing in the pool. One of the scientists who completed the study, Xing-Fang Li, is a regular swimmer. "This isn't to scare people," she said, "but hopefully they can prevent the problem."

Shaelynn Miller is a journalist who has a passion for photography, video production and writing.

Contact her at smiller@deseretdigital.com.

4 Comments

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  • Jim Frei Mar 8, 11:40 a.m.
    user avatar

    0.009% pee in a pool...nothing to worry about. Urine is sterile and is mostly water and salt anyway.

  • Janet Ghumri Mar 8, 11:05 a.m.
    user avatar

    Great. Just great. Another new(?) fear added to the list. If anyone wants me, I'll be under my bed. (Yeah, there's dust bunnies, but we have an agreement)

  • John Smith Mar 8, 11:04 a.m.
    user avatar

    Go swim in the lake or river... then you can add fish pee and poo to the list.

  • William Patterson Mar 8, 9:58 a.m.
    user avatar

    i have a healthy 6th sense about stuff like this ...quit drinking tap water forty years ago long before I found out about the nuero-toxin fluoride was being added to it ....quit drinking anything with the poisonous substance known as Aspartame used to sweeten it and quit swimming in public facilities because i sensed i was swimming in too much pee-pee....and now all of my concerns have been validated