Wastewater is a complex matrix known to contain the accumulated biomarkers of endogenous human metabolism that directly reflects the exposure and stressors placed upon all those in a contributing community. Quantitatively measuring these specific biomarkers in wastewater collated from defined communities allows the averaged patterns of exposure and/or effect to be evaluated with the potential to provide excellent spatial and temporal coverage. Many publications in this field of study have focussed on the consumption of pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
However, many other potential applications for this technology are emerging that can contribute useful knowledge on issues within our communities, such as monitoring markers of human health, exposure to industrial chemicals, infectious diseases or pathogens and antibiotic resistance. This talk summarises the established wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) biomarkers, and provide a critical review of the current capabilities of WBE. Possible future strategies and challenges anticipated in analysing wastewater to measure chemical markers of population health as well as biological markers of microbial exposure and disease will be presented.
Professor Kevin Thomas is the director of the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS). He is an environmental health scientist with a particular interest in understanding the environmental fate, behaviour, effects and risks associated with contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) with the goal of protecting environmental and human health. Author of over 150 papers and book chapters and Associate Editor for the journal Science of the Total Environment, Professor Thomas is a strong collaborative researcher having co-founded the international SCORE network on sewer biomarker analysis for community health assessment (www.score-cost.eu).