A recent study from the University of Alberta, Edmonton offers definitive proof that a significant volume of urine is present in public pools – suggesting not only the occasional accident, but the regular practice of using the water to disguise bodily function.
Researchers have developed a means of estimating the volume of urine hidden in large amounts of water by measuring the concentration of acesulfame potassium (ACE), an artificial sweetener commonly found in processed foods.
Researchers then used the average concentration of ACE – which passes through the body unchanged – in Canadian urine to estimate an approximate volume of urine inside a larger sample of liquid, which the obtained from public pools.
Over a period of three weeks, researchers tracked the daily levels of ACE in two Canadian public pools and found that the concentration of ACE remained roughly the same, suggesting that the urine levels were being regularly maintained.
In one pool, measuring 830,000 liters or about one third the size of an Olympic pool, researchers found a regular volume of urine measuring up to 75 liters. In the second, about half the size of the first, they volumes up to 30 liters.
Researchers also tracked measurements from eight hot tubs, finding levels of ACE much higher than in the swimming pools. In one hotel hot tub, a sample showed a concentration of ACE three times higher than the highest level found in a swimming pool.
All in all, the study looked at 31 pools and hot tubs in various Canadian cities and found ACE present in every sample, with the highest concentration measuring 570 times the amount of ACE found in control measurements of Canadian tap water.
While scientists hope to use this research as a means of developing tests to ensure that urine in public pools is kept to a hygienic level in the future, researchers debunked the existence of a chemical that will produce a colorful cloud upon the detection of urine in the water.
Graduate student Lindsay Blackstock, the study’s lead author, told The Guardian, “This is a myth probably used to scare children, and adults, into using proper hygiene practices for fear of public humiliation.”