Objectives : Prevalence and incidence of chronic disease have steadily been increasing due to many factors, including poor nutrition. Data on food consumption trends through surveys and food sales provide some insight to dietary patterns, but struggle with limitations such as cost, time gaps and biased results. Certain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) used in processed foods can be difficult to quantify, rendering inconclusive data. Collecting and analyzing diet-related biomarkers in wastewater can act as an inexpensive and effective tool in order to assess the nutritional status of a population in near real-time.
Methods : Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is a non-invasive, anonymous tool used to track the health status of a population. Consumption and exposure patterns of a contributing population are assessed through measurement of parent and metabolite compounds excreted in urine and feces. Daily composite samples are collected for 7-consecutive days each month at a wastewater treatment plant or community interceptor sewer. Samples are analyzed using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Compounds of interest include: 1-methylhistidine (meat consumption), phytoestrogens, caffeine, parabens and BPA (endocrine disruption). The analytes are then quantified and extrapolated to detect patterns in a specified population.
Results : These results will provide more robust data targeting the health of a population. For example, high meat consumption has a positive correlation to incidence of Type-2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Additionally, exposure via ingestion to certain EDCs has been shown to interrupt breast tissue, possibly linking to breast cancer.
Conclusions : Wastewater-based epidemiology has been proven successful when analyzing biomarkers indicating drug use, alcohol consumption, and nicotine and their relation to human health. Analysis of dietary biomarkers in wastewater is considered novel since it pushes beyond these traditional approaches of WBE. Detection of these compounds will aid in advancing public health intervention programs; therefore, improving overall health and quality of life for the population served.
Funding Sources : Arizona State University Biodesign Institute Center for Environmental Health Engineering