Measuring biomarkers in wastewater as a new source of epidemiological information: Current state and future perspectives

Emma Gracia-Lor, Sara Castiglioni, Richard Bade, Frederic Been, Erika Castrignanò, Adrian Covaci, Iria González-Mariño, Evroula Hapeshi, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Juliet Kinyua, Foon Yin Lai, Thomas Letzel, Luigi Lopardo, Markus R. Meyer, Jake O'Brien, Pedram Ramin, Nikolaos I. Rousis, Axel Rydevik, Yeonsuk Ryu, Miguel M. SantosIvan Senta, Nikolaos S. Thomaidis, Sofia Veloutsou, Zhugen Yang, Ettore Zuccato, Lubertus Bijlsma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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The information obtained from the chemical analysis of specific human excretion products (biomarkers) in urban wastewater can be used to estimate the exposure or consumption of the population under investigation to a defined substance. A proper biomarker can provide relevant information about lifestyle habits, health and wellbeing, but its selection is not an easy task as it should fulfil several specific requirements in order to be successfully employed. This paper aims to summarize the current knowledge related to the most relevant biomarkers used so far. In addition, some potential wastewater biomarkers that could be used for future applications were evaluated. For this purpose, representative chemical classes have been chosen and grouped in four main categories: (i) those that provide estimates of lifestyle factors and substance use, (ii) those used to estimate the exposure to toxicants present in the environment and food, (iii) those that have the potential to provide information about public health and illness and (iv) those used to estimate the population size. To facilitate the evaluation of the eligibility of a compound as a biomarker, information, when available, on stability in urine and wastewater and pharmacokinetic data (i.e. metabolism and urinary excretion profile) has been reviewed. Finally, several needs and recommendations for future research are proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-150
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date27 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Biomarker
  • Consumption
  • Epidemiology
  • Exposure
  • Population
  • Wastewater


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