Sally Magnusson, who is one of the nation’s best loved broadcasters, has written a book on a surprising subject. In ‘Life of Pee – The Story of How Pee Got Everywhere’, Sally unveils the secret history of urine and the benefits it can have in today’s society.
The BBC anchorwoman was intrigued to write the book when she got over her squeamishness on the subject and learned some interesting things about urine. She told The Hour:
“The idea of writing a book about pee is that it’s sort of a grubby vice and that’s it’s somehow not compatible with presenting the news in a poe faced manner. What I found is there’s a whole collection of stories behind urine and what it has done in our social history for thousands of years that have just been excluded from our history books and from our national consciousness.
“And yet within living memory in Britain there were horses and carts going round people’s houses and people were handing out buckets of urine to be taken back to fool the cloth. I didn’t know that and I don’t think that people do.”
A lot of energy gets used to treat urine and a quarter of Britain’s largest coal fire station is used up every single day just getting the nitrogen out of urine before it goes into rivers where it could over fertilise aquatic life and kill off fish. Sally said:
“What they’re doing in countries like Sweden is diverting some of the pee before it goes into the treatment works, making it available for farmers to use in their fields and cutting down by half the amount of energy it actually takes to treat what goes through to the treatment plants.
“In Denmark they’ve got terrible problems with air pollution so there is a company there that has found a way of removing pig urine. They use it to make plastics and detergents. Their next plan is to make lipstick out of it.”
The prime component of urine is urea, which is used for things like fertilisers, plastics and cosmetics. Urine is a strong antiseptic and has healing properties so has had medicinal uses throughout the ages. Soldiers used to pee on their wounds and battle fishermen used to use it for cuts. It’s also good for burns, wounds and spots.
Sally thinks it’s important to get people talking about it. She said: “There’s no doubt we have difficulties talking about urine, but there are people who have ideas. Heriot Watt University are creating electricity from urine, Nasa makes water for astronauts from urine and HRT treatment is made from pregnant horse’s urine. Eveery time I mention it someone has another story on the subject.”
'Life of Pee - The Story of How Pee Got Everywhere' is available to buy now in all good book shops.