Application of wastewater-based epidemiology for estimating population-wide human exposure to phthalate esters, bisphenols, and terephthalic acid

Rahul Kumar, Sangeet Adhikari, Erin Driver, Jake Zevitz, Rolf U. Halden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Phthalates, bisphenols (BPs), and terephthalic acid (TPA) are widely used plasticizers and monomers in plastic manufacturing. Most of them are known to have an adverse effect on the human body, functioning as endocrine disruptors and suspected carcinogens. Access to near real-time data on population exposure to plasticizers is essential for identifying vulnerable communities and better protecting and managing public health locally. The objective of the present study was to evaluate population-level exposure to phthalates, BPs, and TPA by measuring urinary metabolites in community wastewater. Composited community wastewater (24-h samples) from five sewer sub-catchments of a southwestern city within the United States were analyzed for urinary biomarkers of phthalates, BPs, and TPA using solid-phase extraction-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry in conjunction with the isotope dilution method for absolute quantification. Ten of 16 analytes were detected at least once in community wastewater above the method detection limit (MDL), with MDLs ranging from 37 to 203 ng/L. The population normalized mass load of TPA was the highest, followed by the human metabolite of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Bisphenol S and monoethyl phthalate were detected with the highest frequency. Study findings suggest that analyzing municipal wastewater for chemical indicators of human exposure to plastic constituents is feasible, practicable, and informative, as long as appropriate steps are taken to determine, quantify and account for background levels of plastic analytes in the laboratory environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number157616
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume847
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2022

Keywords

  • Phthalic acids
  • Plasticizer
  • Plastics
  • Risk assessment
  • Sewage epidemiology
  • Wastewater monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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