Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is an innovative approach to estimating exposure to external substances in defined populations by analyzing human metabolic excretion products (biomarkers) in wastewater. For example, it can deliver complementary information concerning substance abuse. This project has contributed to determining biomarkers of illicit and licit drugs in influents from WWTP servicing six Slovenian municipalities. It also compared the results with the sale, seizure and consumption data and the findings to community health data and WBE data from other European cities. It has also identified new psychoactive, aiding in their early detection and reducing any potential harm. To minimize uncertainties in WBE, we applied stable isotope and enantiomer analysis to differentiate between compounds having the same chemical formula but different isotopic/stereochemical characteristics (parent compound/metabolite) and different synthesis/production routes. This approach is novel and has significantly increased drug estimation accuracy in WBE.
The removal of licit and illicit drug residues during wastewater treatment (WWT) was also evaluated, and the fate and effects of such compounds in the environment since WWTP effluents represent a significant source of these compounds. Accordingly, six Slovene WWT plants with different configurations and sizes have been studied, and removal efficiencies evaluated. New knowledge is essential for Slovenian WWTPs, allowing comparison with globally available data for WWT technologies and facilitating their improvements. We also attempted to determine concentrations of these substances in receiving waters, where they are present in sub ng/L levels, by classic approach and using novel active-passive samplers. The outcomes of this task have contributed to evaluating their occurrence in environmental waters, and the development of new samplers will feed directly into performing more reliable WBE. To get an insight into the ecotoxicity of identified biomarkers, we applied the ECOSAR (Ecological Structure Activity Relationship) software and in vivo toxicity tests with algae. The obtained information has filled gaps in our understanding of selected drug effects, harms and risks towards aquatic organisms and stimulated research addressing chronic effects of mixtures of compounds at environmental levels. Finally, the project addressed the vulnerability of the water catchment by evaluating catchment-specific characteristics that influence surface-groundwater interactions and temporal-spatial parameters that affect their levels in aqueous environments. As a case study, the interactions between surface and groundwater in the Ljubljansko polje aquifer were modelled to assess groundwater vulnerability.
The project resulted in 17 papers in scientific journals with high impact factors, with six manuscripts under revision/preparation and numerous academic and public presentations.
FULL FINAL REPORT (in SLO)
MAIN SCIENTIFIC PAPERS:
1. VEROVŠEK, Taja, HEATH, David John, HEATH, Ester. Enantiomeric profiling of amphetamines in wastewater using chiral derivatisation with gas chromatographic-tandem mass spectrometric detection. Science of the total environment. [in press] 2022, 15 str. ISSN 0048-9697. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155594. [COBISS.SI-ID 106116355],
2. VEROVŠEK, Taja, KRIZMAN MATASIĆ, Ivona, HEATH, David John, HEATH, Ester. Data in brief : drug use data for slovenian educational institutions using wastewater analysis. Data in brief. vol. 39, 2021, str. 107614-1-107614-15. ISSN 2352-3409. DOI: 10.1016/j.dib.2021.107614. [COBISS.SI-ID 86403331],
3. VEROVŠEK, Taja, KRIZMAN MATASIĆ, Ivona, HEATH, David John, HEATH, Ester. Investigation of drugs of abuse in educational institutions using wastewater analysisis. Science of the total environment. 2021, vol. 799, str. 150013-1-150013-10, ilustr. ISSN 0048-9697. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150013. [COBISS.SI-ID 78501891],
4. CASTIGLIONI, Sara Michela, HEATH, Ester, et al. New psychoactive substances in several European populations assessed by wastewater-based epidemiology. Water research. 1 May 2021, vol. 195, str. 1-9, graf. prikazi, tabele. ISSN 0043-1354. DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.116983. [COBISS.SI-ID 53944835],
5. VEROVŠEK, Taja, KRIZMAN MATASIĆ, Ivona, HEATH, David John, HEATH, Ester. Site- and event-specific wastewater-based epidemiology : current status and future perspectives. Trends in environmental analytical chemistry. [in press] 2020, 74 str. ISSN 2214-1588. DOI: 10.1016/j.teac.2020.e00105. [COBISS.SI-ID 31196419],
6. VEROVŠEK, Taja, HEATH, David John, HEATH, Ester. Occurrence, fate and determination of tobacco (nicotine) and alcohol (ethanol) residues in waste- and environmental waters. Trends in environmental analytical chemistry. [in press] 2022, str. e00164-1-e00164-20, ilustr. ISSN 2214-1588. DOI: 10.1016/j.teac.2022.e00164. [COBISS.SI-ID 106253315]