Is it Okay to Pee in the Ocean?

If you’re like most Americans, the early bite of the fall already has people looking to head to the nearest beach. Whether you hit up the west coast, travel across the globe to Australia or relax in the South of France, you may be looking forward to jumping into the lapping waves of the ocean as soon as possible.

While you’re enjoying the water, you may have certain *ahem* biological needs. As swimmers, our instinct is to get out of the water before relieving ourselves because we know peeing in a pool is a big no-no. But you may wonder: “Is It Okay to Pee in the Ocean?”

To make a long answer short, YES!

Thanks to a very informative YouTube video by The American Chemical Society (embedded above), we know that the ocean is a much more acceptable receptacle for that “number one” bodily function. First of all, the ocean is much larger and urine is easily diluted over such an expansive area. The Atlantic Ocean contains 350 quintillion liters of water—that’s 18 ZEROS! That’s 140 trillion times more volume than a standard Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Urine, which is a salty water solution is almost 95% water, also contains urea. Urea is a waste product that is left after our bodies process protein that works to get rid of excess nitrogen in the human body. Urea is what combines with sanitizers in pools to produce unwanted compounds that cause things like swimmer “red eye” and itchy skin. The combination produces several harmful gases like NC13—nitrogen trichloramine, a poisonous gas that can cause lung injury. This gas builds quickly in swimming pools that are indoors.

Another gas produced is cyanogen chloride which can harm the central nervous system, heart, and lungs when inhaled. Because pools aren’t a self-cleaning body the same way the ocean is, you need to add a sanitizer to the water to take care of the contaminants.

All forms of aquatic life pee in the ocean with no adverse effects to the marine environment. Urea in the ocean actually helps feed plant life, so there’s a system balance present that is not found in swimming pools. Urea, which contains a lot of nitrogen, combines with the water in the ocean to make ammonium and in turn feeds the plant life.

As a swimmer who spends more time inland than on the coast, there are a few things you can do to avoid contaminating the water and creating noxious gases. First: DON’T PEE IN THE POOL! Second, make sure you shower off before entering the pool to remove sweat, body oils, and traces of urine and feces (yuck!).

Although you shouldn’t pee in the pool, when you’re in the ocean you can take a cue from the fish and go ahead! No guilt necessary. Whales produced more than 250 liters of urine PER DAY! You’d have to spend a lot of time in the ocean to catch up to them. But please. Don’t try it.

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