Identification and Screening of Biomarkers of Human Exposure to Environmental and Food Toxicants in Sewage

Rousis, Nikolaos (2017). Identification and Screening of Biomarkers of Human Exposure to Environmental and Food Toxicants in Sewage. PhD thesis The Open University.



Pesticides are active substances with potentially adverse effects on human health, and therefore great effort is addressed to study the relation between their widespread use and human exposure. Human biomonitoring (HBM) is the most widely used and powerful tool to evaluate the exposure of the population to these substances. However, novel approaches are needed in order to give additional information on exposure at population level and overcome the limitations of HBM studies. A novel approach, called Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE), was proposed as an alternative “biomonitoring tool” with the aim to assess the population exposure to organophosphates, triazines and pyrethroids. A specific analytical method based on liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry was developed and validated to measure human urinary metabolites of pesticides in influent wastewater. This method was applied to samples collected from wastewater treatment plants of fifteen European cities. Pyrethroids metabolites were suitable to back-calculate human exposure to this class. Generally, the results obtained from wastewater were in agreement with the urinary biomarker levels of HBM studies, taking into account the dilution of urine in wastewater. Spatial differences were observed on pesticide exposure in Italy and Europe and seasonal variations in human intake of pyrethroids were found, as expected, with higher intakes during spring/summer. Mass loads profiles of pesticides metabolites in the different European cities were in accordance with the use reported in the Eurostat official statistics. This novel WBE method can be used for obtaining objective and updated, direct information on the real levels of pesticide exposure in the general population, and can complement the findings of HBM studies. The method can also provide valuable information for public health organizations, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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