Go ahead and dive in—Urine content is just a ‘drop in the bucket’ | The American Ceramic Society

Go ahead and dive in—Urine content is just a ‘drop in the bucket’

Iberostar Tucan pool

[Image above] Credit: Faye Oney

Because many people in the U.S. have taken this week off to celebrate our country’s birthday, we have slightly strayed from our regular post topics on Ceramic Tech Todayfeaturing current research and trends in ceramics, glass, and materials science.

Tuesday we brought you a report about 140 STEM teachers and mentors who received presidential awards for their efforts in developing science programs and mentoring students.

On Wednesday, we shared a video containing a suggestion for what to bring to your 4thof July gathering.

The past few weeks saw temperatures rise to the 90s, so today we offer a little science about another summer tradition—going swimming. More specifically, the amount of urine in a swimming pool. I know, gross, right?

But seriously, according to the American Chemical Society, there are between one and three ounces (30–80 ml) of urine per person in the average swimming pool. But even that’s an estimate.

But is this important? Is it detrimental to your health?

It is if you ingest it, due to its high mineral content of sodium, potassium, creatinine, and urea, which just stresses out your kidneys when trying to remove these minerals. And an article on Science News reports that contrary to popular belief, urine is not sterile and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for Neosporin.

A while back, Live Science reported on a Canadian study that found that human urine contains metabolic breakdown products from various foods, beverages, drugs, environmental contaminants, body metabolite waste, and bacterial by-products. In fact, there is an entire chicken soup of at least 3,079 chemical compounds (with some belonging to more than one group) broken down as follows:

  • 72 are made by bacteria
  • 2,282 come from the diet
  • 1,453 originate from the body

“Urine is an incredibly complex biofluid,” study researcher David Wishart, professor of biology and computing science at the University of Alberta says about the report in the Live Science article. “We had no idea there could be so many different compounds going into our toilets.”

Or into our pools.

Adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University William Carroll says urine is composed of a bunch of random organic compounds. And chlorine essentially destroys those compounds, leaving behind organic compound molecule remnants.

A toxicology group at the University of Edmonton, Canada, used an artificial sweetener as a marker for measuring pool water quality.  The sweetener, acesulfame potassium, doesn’t react with chlorinated water or other chemicals in urine and is widely consumed by swimmers. They measured its concentration in 22 swimming pools and eight hot tubs and found urine concentrations ranging from 30 nanograms/liter to 7,110 nanograms/liter, based on pool filtration and the number of people in the pool.

In a subsequent study, the researchers estimated that a 220,000-gallon pool contained nearly 20 gallons of urine, based on samples collected—which represents only .01% of the total pool liquid. Certainly not enough to do any harm.

So go ahead and jump in the pool. The water is just fine.

The open access paper, published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters is “Sweetened Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs” (DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00043).

Watch the video below to learn more about urine in pools than you care to know.

Credit: Reactions, The American Chemical Society

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