In a report published January 16, 2013 by the Nature Publishing Group’s Science Report publication, Arjun Venkatesan and Rolf Halden, researchers at the University of Arizona, U.S., suggest using samples from sludge as observatories for human exposure to chemicals of emerging concern (CECs). The researchers detected a 70% overlap between chemicals detected in sludge and samples from humans. 10 of the top 11 most abundant chemicals were high-production volume chemicals, including 3 flame retardants, 3 surfactants and 2 antimicrobials. Venkatesan and Halden suggest complementing the common screening methods considering persistence, bioaccumulation potential and toxicity of chemicals (PTB approach) with chemical usage rates and real-world biodegradability. They argue that wastewater treatment plants may serve as chemical observatories to study prevalence and fate of chemicals, as well as their bioaccumulation potential in humans and the environment. Waste water was previously used for assessing exposure to food contact materials (FCMs) including exposure to perfluroinated compounds (D’eon et al 2009).
Richard Harth (January 16, 2013). “Sludge as new sentinel for human health risks.” Arizona State University News.
Venkatesan, A. and Halden, R. (January 31, 2014). "Wastewater Treatment Plants as Chemical Observatories to Forecast Ecological and Human Health Risks of Manmade Chemicals." Scientific Reports 4, 3731.
D’Eon, J.C., et al. (2009). "Observation of a commercial fluorinated material, the polyfluoroalkyl phosphoric acid diesters, in human sera, wastewater treatment plant sludge, and paper fibers." Environ Sci Technol 43:4589-4594.