Critical review on the stability of illicit drugs in sewers and wastewater samples

McCall, Ann-Kathrin, Bade, Richard, Kinyua, Juliet, Lai, Foon Yin, Thai, Phong K., Covaci, Adrian, Bijlsma, Lubertus, van Nuijs, Alexander L. N. and Ort, Christoph (2016) Critical review on the stability of illicit drugs in sewers and wastewater samples. Water Research, 88 933-947. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.040

Author McCall, Ann-Kathrin
Bade, Richard
Kinyua, Juliet
Lai, Foon Yin
Thai, Phong K.
Covaci, Adrian
Bijlsma, Lubertus
van Nuijs, Alexander L. N.
Ort, Christoph
Title Critical review on the stability of illicit drugs in sewers and wastewater samples
Journal name Water Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0043-1354
Publication date 2016-01-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.040
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 88
Start page 933
End page 947
Total pages 15
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher IWA Publishing
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Abstract Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) applies advanced analytical methods to quantify drug residues in wastewater with the aim to estimate illicit drug use at the population level. Transformation processes during transport in sewers (chemical and biological reactors) and storage of wastewater samples before analysis are expected to change concentrations of different drugs to varying degrees. Ignoring transformation for drugs with low to medium stability will lead to an unknown degree of systematic under- or overestimation of drug use, which should be avoided. This review aims to summarize the current knowledge related to the stability of commonly investigated drugs and, furthermore, suggest a more effective approach to future experiments. From over 100 WBE studies, around 50 mentioned the importance of stability and 24 included tests in wastewater. Most focused on in-sample stability (i.e., sample preparation, preservation and storage) and some extrapolated to in-sewer stability (i.e., during transport in real sewers). While consistent results were reported for rather stable compounds (e.g., MDMA and methamphetamine), a varying range of stability under different or similar conditions was observed for other compounds (e.g., cocaine, amphetamine and morphine). Wastewater composition can vary considerably over time, and different conditions prevail in different sewer systems. In summary, this indicates that more systematic studies are needed to: i) cover the range of possible conditions in sewers and ii) compare results more objectively. To facilitate the latter, we propose a set of parameters that should be reported for in-sewer stability experiments. Finally, a best practice of sample collection, preservation, and preparation before analysis is suggested in order to minimize transformation during these steps.
Keyword Transformation
Sewage epidemiology
Sample preservation
Psychoactive substances
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online 21 October 2015

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 7 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 11 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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