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There Are Probably Gallons of Pee in Every Pool, Says Study

A group of researchers figured out the average pee-to-water ratio by tracking an artificial sweetener that passes through the body. Gross!
Photo via Flickr user Stuart Seeger

A group of researchers from the University of Alberta have found a way to measure just how much urine is floating around in pools and hot tubs, and the answer is: a lot more than you'd like to think.

It's historically been hard to quantify exactly how much pee you're getting up your nose when you dive into any given pool. But NPR reports that the researchers, led by chemist Xing-Fang Li, finally cracked the code. Li and her team took samples from public and hotel pools in Canada and tested the water for an artificial sweetener called acesulfame K.


Artificial sweeteners are chemically built to pass through your body and be expelled through your pee, and acesulfame K is basically everywhere in foods and drinks, so it's a safe bet that if you've found acesufame K in a pool, you've found piss.

Li discovered that a standard, commercial-size pool that you'd dive into at the YMCA or whatever contains around 20 gallons of urine. That's not a lot percentage-wise, since those pools hold about 220,000 gallons in total, but 20 gallons of pee is still 20 gallons of pee.

Sure, every third grader in the world knows that you can drink pee, but NPR points out that urine in a pool can react with chlorine to create some "potentially toxic compounds."

"I view it like secondhand smoke," Ernest Blatchley III, an environmental engineer at Purdue University, told NPR. "It's disrespectful and potentially dangerous."

Look, just stop peeing in the pool, alright? Thanks.