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Small changes in swimming culture can help reduce urine in pools

The National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®) suggests swim coaches, parents, and facility managers make a few small changes to reduce urine in pools.

Canadian researchers studying urine levels in pools have discovered just how high the levels are, and the results are not pretty, according to a Reuters report.

Researchers at the University of Alberta developed a test to measure the amount of urine and took more than 250 samples from 31 pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities.

The results showed one 830,000-L (220,000-gal) pool, roughly one-third the size of an Olympic-sized pool, had 75 L (19 gal) of urine while another smaller pool had 30 L (8 gal).

Bathers introduce “a variety of chemicals” into recreational waters through bodily fluids, and the overnight water colour change experienced in the 2016 Rio Olympic pools highlight the need to monitor water quality, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

While urine is sterile, its presence in pools is a public health concern as it can mix with water treatment chemicals to harm swimmers’ health, according to the study.

Researchers used acesulfame-K (ACE), an artificial sweetener that passes through the body completely, as “an ideal urinary marker.” After measuring for the substance, they found concentrations of ACE in the pools and hot tubs, which were not named, that were up to 570-fold greater than in normal tap water. According to the study, researchers then used the ACE concentration of the two pools over three weeks to estimate their levels of urine.

In response to these recent studies, the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®), recommends a few small changes by coaches, parents, and facility managers to reduce urine in pools, thus improving water and air quality.

First, everyone from swim coaches to parents should encourage showers and bathroom breaks before entering the water. It is important to recognize that being submerged in water stimulates the body to create more urine. Other simple tips include:

  • Swim coaches should require a bathroom break 30 to 60 minutes into the practice. For example, it takes about 40 minutes in the water for a person to feel the need to urinate. A short break that borders this time frame will reduce peeing in the pool.
  • Parents who frequent waterparks, public pools, or backyard pools should schedule an “out of pool” time for a snack, sunscreen, and a bathroom break every 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Facility managers should consider two ways to prevent pee in the pool. First, schedule short breaks to encourage bathers to exit the water. For example, a 10-minute ‘adult only’ swim or an out-of-pool activity every hour will encourage people to exit the pool and use the bathroom. Second, post signage that suggests using the bathroom and showering before getting into the pool.

Air quality can also be improved for indoor facilities by keeping urine out of the water. When coaches, parents, and facility managers make small changes, the water and air in an aquatic facility becomes healthier, safer, and better for everyone.

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