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Seminar: UMD School of Public Health, Prof. Benny Chefetz (Dean of the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

UMD School of Public Health Seminar, April 11, 2018, 2-3 PM EST

Prof. Benny Chefetz (Dean of the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) 

Title: Irrigation with Reclaimed Wastewater: New Source of Water or Emerging problem?

Location: Room 2236 in the School of Public Health

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Synopsis:Fresh water scarcity has led to increased use of treated wastewater as an alternative source for crop irrigation. Concerns have been raised regarding pharmaceutical exposure via treated wastewater. In our recent work, we demonstrated that active pharmaceuticals are introduced to arable land via irrigation water. Moreover, we showed that some pharmaceuticals can be taken up and accumulated in edible parts of plants. Our studies aimed to assess whether carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant drug highly persistent in wastewater, is present in commercially available treated wastewater-irrigated produce, and whether human exposure to carbamazepine occurs via ingestion of this produce. In this study we follow the exposure path: wastewater Þirrigation water Þ soil Þ crops Þ consumers.  Using volunteer cohorts in a single blind crossover trial, carbamazepine and metabolite levels were measured in produce and human urine. Our findings indicated that following seven days of consuming treated wastewater irrigated-produce all volunteers exhibited quantifiable levels of carbamazepine, while in a cohort of volunteers who consumed fresh water irrigated-produce, the distribution remained unchanged from baseline (between group P<0.001). Urine levels of the cohort that consumed consuming treated wastewater irrigated-produce for seven days were found to return to baseline following the exposure periods. This study demonstrates "proof of concept" that human exposure to pharmaceuticals occurs through ingestion of commercially available treated wastewater-irrigated produce, providing data that could guide policy and risk assessments.