Exposure mapping - Combining wastewater analysis with human biomonitoring

ARC Discovery Project

This project aims to use wastewater samples collected from >100 catchments (65% of the Australian population) during the 2016 Census to spatially resolve human exposure to chemicals. This data will then form the basis for focused human biomonitoring using pooled surplus pathology samples. The integration of wastewater and biomonitoring data will allow the creation of a national hazard specific exposure map that can be compared with geospatial data on disease risk and socioeconomic indicators via Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) information. The benefits are associated both with the development of this new approach and the capability to identify and manage exposure risks to public health.

Research Impact

The results from this project regarding the temporal trends of plasticizers in wastewater and human serum were used in the annual report of the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment to discuss potential regulations on new plasticizers. 

Research Outputs

Boogaerts, T., Ahmed, F., Choi, P.M., Tscharke, B., O'Brien, J., De Loof, H., Gao, J., Thai, P., Thomas, K., Mueller, J.F. and Hall, W., 2021. Current and future perspectives for wastewater-based epidemiology as a monitoring tool for pharmaceutical use. Science of the Total Environment789, p.148047.

He, C., Li, J., Jiang, G., Chen, S., Niel, C., Yuan, Z., Mueller, J.F. and Thai, P., 2021. Transformation of phthalates and their metabolites in wastewater under different sewer conditions. Water Research190, p.116754.

Thai, P.K., Banks, A.P., Toms, L.M.L., Choi, P.M., Wang, X., Hobson, P. and Mueller, J.F., 2020. Analysis of urinary metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cotinine in pooled urine samples to determine the exposure to PAHs in an Australian population. Environmental research182, p.109048.

Tang, S., He, C., Thai, P.K., Heffernan, A., Vijayasarathy, S., Toms, L., Thompson, K., Hobson, P., Tscharke, B.J., O’Brien, J.W. and Thomas, K.V., 2020. Urinary concentrations of bisphenols in the Australian population and their association with the per capita mass loads in wastewater. Environmental Science & Technology54(16), pp.10141-10148.

Tang, S., He, C., Thai, P., Vijayasarathy, S., Mackie, R., Toms, L.M.L., Thompson, K., Hobson, P., Tscharke, B., O'Brien, J.W. and Mueller, J.F., 2020. Concentrations of phthalate metabolites in Australian urine samples and their contribution to the per capita loads in wastewater. Environment international137, p.105534.

Thai, P.K., O'Brien, J.W., Banks, A.P., Jiang, G., Gao, J., Choi, P.M., Yuan, Z. and Mueller, J.F., 2019. Evaluating the in-sewer stability of three potential population biomarkers for application in wastewater-based epidemiology. Science of The Total Environment671, pp.248-253.

Toms, L.M.L., Bräunig, J., Vijayasarathy, S., Phillips, S., Hobson, P., Aylward, L.L., Kirk, M.D. and Mueller, J.F., 2019. Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Australia: Current levels and estimated population reference values for selected compounds. International journal of hygiene and environmental health222(3), pp.387-394.

O'Brien, J.W., Choi, P.M., Li, J., Thai, P.K., Jiang, G., Tscharke, B.J., Mueller, J.F. and Thomas, K.V., 2019. Evaluating the stability of three oxidative stress biomarkers under sewer conditions and potential impact for use in wastewater-based epidemiology. Water Research166, p.115068.


Project members

Prof Jochen Mueller

Theme Leader, Emerging Environmental Health Risks

Prof Kevin Thomas

QAEHS Director
and Theme Leader, Environmental Health Toxicology