A team of scientists in Canada have measured how much of an average pool's water is actually pee, and it's disturbingly high. The sweetener is widely consumed and makes for "an ideal urinary marker" because it can be detected in varying bodies of water with different pH levels and temperatures, according to the study. Moreover, it isn't broken down by chlorine.
The research team began by taking samples from 29 public pools in two Canadian cities and indeed found elevated levels of ACE.
Levels of the sweetener, acesulfame-K were a whopping 570 times higher in swimming pool water than in tap water. Subsequently, small pools contain up to 30 liters of urine.
As it turns out, the joke's punchline could also serve as the title of a new University of Alberta study released Wednesday that employed a unique method to examine how often people might be polluting their local swimming pool.
Not only is the thought of swimming in human lemonade gross, but it raises concerns about health as well. "The pool has to be evacuated and then shocked", said Blackstock.
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. Scientists found a mixture of a lot of chemicals that result when chlorine mixes with sweat and body oil.
But the good news - if you can call it that - is that this amounts to just 0.01% of the total volume of the pool.
Blackstock: First, we had to determine if ACE was detectable in swimming pools and hot tubs.
"Although considered a taboo, 19 per cent of adults have admitted to having urinated in a swimming pool at least once".
"Our findings support potential genotoxic effects of exposure to DBPs from swimming pools".
But up until now, just how much urine has been hard to measure, says chemist Xing-Fang Li of the University of Alberta. Sure, you've seen these "sugar alternatives" in tea and juice, but they're also found in everything from ketchup to kettle corn to english muffins.
So if you're at the pool and need to tinkle, maybe take the time to use a toilet. Nitrogen in pools can be hard to monitor, because it can react with disinfectants to form volatile compounds that can escape into the air where they can no longer be measured in a pool water sample. The only true way to disinfect a pool that has been peed in is to replace it with fresh, clean water.