In a memorable “Seinfeld” episode, Elaine scolds George for peeing in a shower. She thinks he’s lazy. His defense? Everyone does it. If administrators at the University of East Angalia in Norwich, England, have their say, all 15,000 students will do it.
The campaign, aptly titled “Go with the Flow,” claims that if every student peed in the shower once daily, the university would save about $230,000 a year on water. One of the students behind the campaign, Chris Dobson, recently told the BBC:
“With 15,000 students at UEA, over a year we would save enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over.”
For some, peeing in the shower is already a daily occurrence. For others, there’s a serious ick factor.
Among the TODAY hosts, opinions are fiercely divided.
“Everyone pees in the shower,” said Tamron Hall.
Al Roker balked. He never pees in the shower.
“You’re kidding me … never?” asked Natalie Morales.
“Hey, guess what? They invented toilets,” Roker said.
But Willie Geist encouraged Roker to embrace it.
“It’s a one-stop shop, man.”
Is Roker right? Is peeing in the shower wrong?
The jury’s still out.
What experts do know is that urine is not sterile. Evann Hilt and her colleagues recently debunked that myth. She authored a study that looked at urine samples from 84 women — 42 were healthy and 42 had overactive bladders, a condition that makes people feel like they have to pee urgently. Healthy women’s urine contained 33 different types of bacteria and women with overactive bladders had urine with 77 different types of bacteria.
Hilt, a graduate student at Loyola University in Chicago, said they found a “unique” combination in urine but overall no bacteria that isn’t commonly found elsewhere on our bodies.
The myth of sterile urine began in the 1950s when epidemiologist Edward Kass searched for ways to determine whether someone had a urinary tract infection, says Hilt. When a person’s urine contained more than a certain amount of bacteria, it indicated an infection. While Kass never claimed that urine was sterile, clinicians often say urine is sterile when the bacterial load remains lower than infection levels.
Hilt’s research showed the bacteria in urine are alive, which supports what researchers know about the human microbiome, the rich environment of bacteria in and on our bodies. The microbiome helps us with everything from proper digestion to staying trim to warding off illness.
“There is bacteria on our body, and we wouldn’t be able to survive without them,” Hilt says. “There are just a few bacteria out there that cause illness.”
So does that mean it’s safe to pee in the shower? She’s not sure.
But they haven’t seen any evidence yet that makes them say, “Yes, that’s bad.”