Urine Alarmism at Time

by Greg Pollowitz

Here’s a real headline from Time. How can you not click on it?

No, It’s Not Safe to Pee in the Pool, Says Science

Oooh, science — it must be true then. Time continues with this explanation:

A new study says chlorine doesn’t, in fact, kill the contents of our urine, but rather reacts with it to create potentially dangerous byproducts. The research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, used a technique called membrane introduction mass spectrometry to measure the presence of dangerous byproducts in pools. Uric acid from human urine mixes with chlorine to create the cyanogen chloride (CNCI) and trichloramine (NCl3). CNCI is a toxic compound that can harm organs like the lungs, heart, and central nervous system. NCl3 has been linked with acute lung injury.

“A common misconception within the swimming community is that urination in pools is an acceptable practice, although signs and placards are posted in many pools to encourage proper hygiene. It is also well known that many swimmers ignore these warnings, particularly noteworthy among these are competitive swimmers,” said study author Ernest R. Blatchley III, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, in a statement.

Time writer Alexandra Sifferlin, however, never questions the validity of what she just wrote, however. The first question that I asked myself was how many people relieving themselves in the pool would it take to kill a swimmer? That really should be in her piece. The answer, not surprising to me at least, makes the Time piece idiotic and irrelevant: Via Ars Technica:

According to the National Institute of Health, cyanogen chloride poisoning creates “mild effects” in humans at concentrations of 500-1,000 micrograms per liter. Beyond the concentration threshold of 2,500 micrograms per liter, it can cause “coma, convulsions, and death.” (Delightful—these are just the figures we’re looking for.)

As it turns out, the concentration of uric acid in pee is, to our calculation, about 112 times that of the uric acid concentration used in the experiment. If we could assume a proportional yield of cyanogen chloride just from using more uric acid, we could actually achieve toxic levels of cyanogen chloride for an Olympic pool of 10mg/L chlorinated water… for an equivalent quantity of urine. That means if each person is peeing 0.8L of the highly concentrated urine, their entire day’s yield, into this pool, you’d need about three million people peeing in that pool. If you could get at that pool without dying of either suffocation or drowning in other people’s urine, you could probably pull off death by cyanogen chloride poisoning or at least a pretty good coma.

3,000,000 people. Oh, and it gets better. More science:

However, there’s a problem. The researchers in the paper showed that for a concentration of 0.33 millimoles of chlorine per liter (about 15 mg/L), the dilute concentration of uric acid (5×10-5 moles per liter) eliminated all of the free chlorine. Hence, if we want chlorinated water that can actually turn all of the uric acid we’re peeing in it into cyanogen chloride, we need a more concentrated chlorinated solution.

If an approximately one-hundredth-strength-of-pee concentration of uric acid uses up 15mg/L chlorinated water, we need super chlorinated water-—on the order of 1500mg/L, or roughly half a liter of chlorine per liter of water.

In the end, we need a pool that is two parts water to one part chlorine and would probably burn the eyeballs out of your sockets and make your skin peel away from your bones (this calls for a pool boy who can only be criminally sadistic). If you and three million other people could get at this pool and unload your pee into it before your bodies melted, before the crowd crushed you to death, and before you drowned from the massive tidal wave of pee… yes, you could feasibly die of cyanogen chloride poisoning originating from chlorinated water and pee.

And that’s why, boys and girls, we don’t trust everything we read in the MSM.

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