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Canadian researchers find significant levels of urine in public pools

Canadian researchers find significant levels of urine in public pools
March 2, 2017

A team of researchers at Canada’s University of Alberta have discovered significant urine levels in swimming pools.

In research published this week, the team revealed the results from more than 250 samples from 31 commercial pools and spas in two Canadian cities.

The findings showed levels of urine in all the pools with the results finding one 830,000 litre pool contained had 75 litres of urine while another smaller pool had 30 litres.

The researchers’ test worked by measuring the concentration of an artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium (ACE), that is commonly found in processed food and passes through the body unaltered.

The levels of the sweetener were then tracked in the pools over a three-week period.

Lindsay Blackstock, a graduate student at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and lead author of the study, advised “our study provides additional evidence that people are indeed urinating in public pools.”

In total, the team sampled 31 different pools and spas in two Canadian cities and found ACE to be present in 100% of the samples, with concentrations up to 570 times the background level in tap water samples.

They used the average ACE concentration in Canadian urine to convert their measurements into approximate volumes of urine.

Blackstock added “we want to use this study to promote public education on appropriate swimming hygiene practices.

“We should all be considerate of others and make sure to exit the pool to use the restroom when nature calls.”

While most people, beyond early childhood, would not admit to urinating in public swimming pools, the results are consistent with previous studies where one in four Britons and one in five Americans admitted to relieving themselves in swimming pools.

In 2012, US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps famously told the Wall Street Journal that his peeing in a pool was "kind of a normal thing to do for swimmers".

Prior to the London Olympics, Phelps’ teammate Ryan Lochte, also advised “I think there’s just something about getting into chlorine water that you just automatically go.”

While no studies on pool users urinating in water have been conducted in Australia or New Zealand, swimming pool design in this part of the world, that allows swimmers to access pool decks and pools without first entering a changing room, would suggest that significant proportions of all pool users urinate in the pool.

Commenting on the study, a senior Australian pool manager and respected member of the Leisure Instiute of Western Australia (Aquatics), who asked not to be named, told Australasian Leisure Management “levels of urine and faecal matter in Australian public pools is a topic that the industry does not want to be discussed and certainly doesn’t want the public to know about.”

The manager added “tests at every pool I have worked have always revealed high levels of urine in our water and I reckon that around half of Australian pool users would take a leak when they are in a public pool.”

From a hygiene perspective, while urine is sterile, compounds in urine, including urea, ammonia, and creatinine have been found to react with disinfectants to form byproducts known as DBPs that can lead to eye and respiratory irritation. Long-term exposure to the compounds has been linked to asthma in professional swimmers and pool workers.

In the future, the University of Alberta team suggest it may be possible to use ACE as a test to ensure that urine in pools is kept to a hygienic level.

The findings are published in the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

25th January 2017 - NSW HEALTH RELEASES NEW RESOURCES IN ‘CLEAN POOLS FOR HEALTHY SWIMMING’ CAMPAIGN

19th January 2016 - RECREATION SA URGES SWIMMERS TO PRACTICE GOOD PERSONAL HYGIENE AMID RECORD CRYPTOSPORIDIUM LEVELS

23rd December 2015 - POOL MANAGERS NEED TO BE AWARE OF WATERBORNE BUGS THROUGH SUMMER 

15th December 2015 - POLICE STEP UP PATROLS TO PROTECT COOMA’S PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL FROM VANDALS

26th March 2015 - SERIAL DEFECATOR CAUSES WEEKLY CLOSURES OF SOUTHLAND AQUATIC CENTRE

29th January 2015 - NSW HEALTH LAUNCHES ‘CLEAN POOLS FOR HEALTHY SWIMMING’ CAMPAIGN

20th December 2014 - STUDY FINDS TOXIC BYPRODUCT FROM URINATING IN SWIMMING POOLS 

26th November 2013 - ONE IN FOUR POMS PEE IN PUBLIC POOLS

8th May 2012 - FAECAL CONTAMINATION IN SWIMMING POOLS LINKED TO RISE IN GASTRO BUGS


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