Human Exposure to Wastewater-Derived Pharmaceuticals in Fresh Produce: A Randomized Controlled Trial Focusing on Carbamazepine

Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Apr 19;50(8):4476-82. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b06256. Epub 2016 Apr 7.

Abstract

Fresh water scarcity has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater as an alternative and reliable source for crop irrigation. Beyond microbiological safety, concerns have been raised regarding contamination of reclaimed wastewater by xenobiotics including pharmaceuticals. This study focuses on carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant drug which is ubiquitously detected in reclaimed wastewater, highly persistent in soil, and taken up by crops. In a randomized controlled trial we demonstrate that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine. We also report that the carbamazepine metabolite pattern at this low exposure level differed from that observed at therapeutic doses. This "proof of concept" study demonstrates that human exposure to xenobiotics occurs through ingestion of reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce, providing real world data which could guide risk assessments and policy designed to ensure the safe use of wastewater for crop irrigation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agricultural Irrigation / methods*
  • Carbamazepine / metabolism
  • Carbamazepine / urine*
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Food Contamination
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism
  • Soil Pollutants / urine*
  • Waste Water / chemistry*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Soil Pollutants
  • Waste Water
  • Carbamazepine