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New Research: Wee In the Pool? There’s WAY More Than You Think!

What’s in the pool? Science says there’s wee in the pool. Actually, 75 litres of urine. Um, yuck! Seriously, who’s peeing in the pool? 

It’s hot out. The kids are whining and you’re about to start pulling your hair out. At least you would, if you weren’t so darn hot. Now what? Obviously – head out to the local pool. Not only can the kiddos cool off, but they can also keep busy. Ah, a day of swimming sounds like a fab fantasy about right now. But, wait. Before you dive in, check out what researchers from the University of Alberta found.

When studying how much urine is in public pools, researchers found that there is up to 75 litres of wee in an 830,000-litre pool. Gross! Okay, so to start with – studying wee in pools? Really, is that a thing? It seems so.

How did the scientists ‘discover’ that there are roughly 75 litres in your average swimming pool? They used synthetic sweeteners. Huh? What? Yep, that’s right, they used those chemical-y sugar substitutes. Acesulfame-K (ACE) is excreted completely in urine. That means if it shows up in pool water, someone had to have ingested it and then wee’d it out. Or, there’s the off chance that someone dropped a whole bunch of it into the pool (probably not).


The researchers took samples from 31 pools and tubs in Canadian cities. All showed at least some ACE. Eww! By looking at the concentration of ACE in the samples, the researchers were able to do some fancy math and eventually conclude that there was anywhere between 30 and 75 litres of urine in the pools. Of course, their explanation is much more science-y. But, when it comes down to it – there is definitely wee in the water.

So, your next thought after, “Seriously? I’ve been swimming in that?” is, “What can happen to my kids? Or to me?” It’s totally normal to be completely disgusted by the fact that you and your kiddos have been swimming in wee water. Yeah, you probably already guessed it. It seems pretty likely that at some point in time at least one of your kids didn’t feel like popping out of the pool to do their business. Right? Urine is pretty much a sterile substance. This makes it somewhat less likely that wee in the pool would have the same ill-effects that fecal matter (yeah, poop) would. But, it’s obviously not good for you in any way. The study researchers note that the nitrogen-containing compounds in wee (urea and ammonia) can react with the disinfectants found in swimming pools. The result can be a potentially dangerous byproduct – such as trichloramine,

What’s wrong with trichloramine? It’s an eye and lung irritant and may be linked to the development of asthma. Yes, wee in the water is both yucky and kind of scary too. Even though the research doesn’t provide answers as to what we can all do about this problem, it seems pretty clear. Stop weeing in the swimming pool!


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Erica Loop is a mum, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. Along with writing for websites such as PBS Parents,, Scary Mommy,, Modern Mom, and others, she also is the creator of a kids' activities and art blog.

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