Friday, August 11, 2017

Don't Drink The Pool Water!

During the last couple of days over National Day, we took a family staycation at the Goodwoodpark Hotel. I ended up spending lots of time in the pool with my two boys as you can see in the picture above. Probably ended up drinking some too.

Not the greatest thing to do if you read what Canadian researchers found when they tracked two public pools for three weeks. Olympic swimmers have admitted doing it and now evidence shows that the rest of the general public are doing it too.

Doing what? Peeing in the swimming pool that's what!

The researchers tracked the concentration of an artificial sweetener, acesulfame potassium (ACE), which is found commonly in processed food and passes through our bodies unaltered. Great for the researchers if you happen to eat processed food and pee in public pools.

By tracking ACE levels, the researchers calculated that swimmers released 75 litres of urine (enough to fill a medium sized dustbin) in the first public pool (830,000 litres, about one-third the size of an Olympic pool).

There was 30 litres of urine in the second public pool, which was around half the size of the first pool over this two week period.

The research team sampled a total 31 different swimming pools and eight hotel jacuzzi hot tubs in two Canadian cities. ACE was present in 100% of the pools and hot tubs!

Number of pool visitors were not monitored, but the results also suggested that urine content in the pool was added several times each day.

If you thought that the pool readings were bad, measurement in the eight jacuzzi hot tubs were much higher. One particular hotel jacuzzi had more than three times ACE levels than the worst swimming pool.

Just so you know, urine is sterile, but the compounds in urine (urea, ammonia and creatinine) can react with pool disinfectants cause eye and respiratory irritation. Long term exposure to these compounds has been linked to asthma.

The results were not surprising as another anonymous survey showed that 19% of adults polled admitted to having urinated in a swimming pool at least once. Professional swimmers have confessed to being among the worst offenders.

Have you ever peed in a swimming pool? Hmmm, let me ask Jo Schooling when he next comes and sees me in the clinic.


Blackstock LKJ, Wang W et al (2017). Sweetened Swimming Pools And Hot Tubs. Environ Sci Technol. 4(4): 149-153. DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b0043.

Wiant C (2012). New Public Survey Reveals Swimmer Hygiene Attitudes And Practices. Int J Aquatic Research Edu. 6(3): Article 4.

Researchers Lindsay Blackstock and Xing Fang Li testing for ACE

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