Human population as a key driver of biochemical burden in an inter-city system: Implications for One Health concept

Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Kathryn Proctor, Kishore Jagadeesan, Felicity Edler, Richard Standerwick, Ruth Barden

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8 Citations (SciVal)


This paper tests the hypothesis that human population and city function are key drivers of biochemical burden in an inter-city system, which can be used to inform One Health actions as it enables a holistic understanding of city's metabolism encompassing all of the activities of a city in a single model: from lifestyle choices, through to health status and exposure to harmful chemicals as well as effectiveness of implemented management strategies. Chemical mining of wastewater for biophysico-chemical indicators (BCIs) was undertaken to understand speciation of BCIs in the context of geographical as well as community-wide socioeconomic factors. Spatiotemporal variabilities in chemical and biological target groups in the studied inter-city system were observed. A linear relationship (R2 > 0.99) and a strong positive correlation between most BCIs and population size (r > 0.998, p < 0.001) were observed which provides a strong evidence for the population size as a driver of BCI burden. BCI groups that are strongly correlated with population size and are intrinsic to humans’ function include mostly high usage pharmaceuticals that are linked with long term non-communicable conditions (NSAIDs, analgesics, cardiovascular, mental health and antiepileptics) and lifestyle chemicals. These BCIs can be used as population size markers. BCIs groups that are produced as a result of a specific city's function (e.g. industry presence and occupational exposure or agriculture) and as such are not correlated with population size include: pesticides, PCPs and industrial chemicals. These BCIs can be used to assess city's function, such as occupational exposure, environmental or food exposure, and as a proxy of community-wide health. This study confirmed a strong positive correlation between antibiotics (ABs), population size and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). This confirms the population size and AB usage as the main driver of AB and ARG levels and provides an opportunity for interventions aimed at the reduction of AB usage to reduce AMR. Holistic evaluation of biophysicochemical fingerprints (BCI burden) of the environment and data triangulation with socioeconomic fingerprints (indices) of tested communities are required to fully embrace One Health concept.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127882
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Early online date25 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022


  • AMR
  • Exposure
  • Illicit drugs
  • Lifestyle
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology
  • Water fingerprinting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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