MANY people are guilty of having a wee when they’re swimming in the sea.
However it turns out that doing the deed could actually be harmful for the sea in some places.
Part of the reason that Maya Bay in Thailand – made famous in The Beach – was announced to be closing indefinitely earlier this month was due to tourists urinating in the sea.
Boats full of visitors were also offloading the contents of their toilets into the famous bay, harming coral and marine life.
Is it OK to wee in the ocean?
The Telegraph reports that “urine is 95 per cent water, but it also contains sodium and chloride ions – the same chemicals that make seawater salty”.
Pee is less salty than seawater is, making ocean water slightly less salty when mixed together.
Urine is also full of waste products such as urea, which comes from breaking down protein in the human diet, as well as bacteria and traces of drugs like antibiotics and contraceptives.
Of course, the ocean is a vast place – the Atlantic contains 350 quintillion litres of water, for example.
A video from the American Chemical Society confirmed that peeing into the ocean is mostly OK – as even if every human on earth did so, there would only be 60 parts per trillion of the sea with urea in.
The video also pointed out that every fish in the ocean pees into it as well, including the fin whale, which lets out 970 litres of urine per day.
It also said that the nitrogen in urea produces ammonia when it combines with water, feeding plants in the ocean – which can be beneficial.
However there are some parts of the sea that urine can be harmful, as in the case of Maya Bay.
Coral reefs are one place that can be damaged by pee.
They can be found in tropical climates, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii.
This is because the nitrogen causes algae to grow – and this is damaging to the coral.
Stephanie Wear, a marine ecologist and senior scientist for The Nature Conservancy told the Telegraph: “If you have a lot of people peeing in an area that is not well flushed because it has poor exchange of new water, it could be a problem because excess nitrogen fuels algal growth, which has a negative impact on corals and other animals.”
Chemicals from drugs in the human body are also known to damage coral reefs by disturbing the balance of microbes.
The Environment Agency also recommends that swimmers refrain from peeing in the sea in the UK to “preserve water quality”.
Where is it illegal to wee in the sea?
In Portugal it's illegal to wee in the sea.
Does wee attract sharks?
Vic Peddemores, senior research scientist, from the New South Wales Department of Fisheries in Australia told The Sydney Morning Herald: "I would have been dead a long time ago — there is no evidence that urine attracts sharks. I have been in the water close to large sharks like a tiger shark and have peed, and it makes no difference."
National Geographic ran a series of experiments with sharks and divers to debunk several shark-related myths.
They placed 2 divers in water, one holding a bottle of urine that slowly seeped into the water and another diver, in a separate area – they didn't find that the diver with the bottle attracted the sharks more.
Is it ok to wee in swimming pools?
Some nitrogenous compounds present in pee—such as urea or ammonia—can interact with a swimming pool's chlorine to create disinfection byproducts (DBPs), as reported in a 2014 paper. These DBPs, like trihalomethanes, have been shown to potentially cause lung irritation, eye irritation and occupational asthma.
While this is unlikely to happen if a few toddlers pee in a pool, it's obviously not a good idea to encourage it for hygienic reasons as well as health reasons.
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