Creating solutions in collaboration Annual report 2013

Smart Sewage Water 

Sewage as a mirror of society

26 January 2013Research

Diving into the world of sewage produces a treasure of valuable information. This is something researchers in the SEWPROF network can tell us all about. This network is established at the end of 2012 with the support of the European FP-7 programme and the Marie Curie scholarships.

Following the initial success of sewage epidemiological research, European researchers decided at the end of 2012 to set up a network in order to better pool their resources. Within the SEWPROF, KWR is part of the Sewage Core Analysis Group (SCORE). This is the central group of European researchers who have collaborated from the very beginning and taken new research initiatives. The participants come from the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Belgium.

Mirror of society

Sewage epidemiological research has already produced some surprising results concerning drug use. And a lot remains to be done. This is how researcher Erik Emke puts it: “Sewage is a mirror of society. Practically everything you use, eventually ends up in the kitchen sink, the shower drain or the toilet. What we find in sewage says something about people’s lifestyle and health.”

“We want to know how big the illegal consumption of erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals is”

Erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals

In the Netherlands, KWR works with other expert organisations. In collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) KWR is carrying out research in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Utrecht into the illegal consumption of erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals, such as Viagra. “Officially, you can only get Viagra with a doctor’s prescription. But these pharmaceuticals are being sold illegally online. We want to know how extensive the illegal consumption is,” says Peter Keizers of RIVM. In early 2013, KWR monitors sewage water in the three cities. Keizers knows that “measuring sewage water in the Netherlands is difficult, because it is a rather thick substance. But KWR has a lot of experience with it and can do the analysis quickly.” The researchers establish the quantities of the breakdown products of Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. “We then compare them to the pharmacies’ sales figures,” says Keizers. The results are to be published soon.

Follow-up research

The measurements are repeated in 2014. “Viagra was patent-protected until now. But that’s over,” says Keizers. “We anticipate that a few dozen new Viagra-like products will be on offer. And naturally we want to known what the impact will be on the (illegal) market.”

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