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Study: Produce Irrigated With Treated Wastewater Exposes Consumers To Drugs

28 April 2016

Using foods that were grown on land irrigated with treated wastewater could potentially expose consumers to small amounts of carbamazepine, a substance which has an antiepileptic effect in humans, according to a study that was recently conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center.

The research, which was published in the magazine Environmental Science and Technology, describes the connection between the impacts of drug substances and the use of reclaimed wastewater to grow produce.

The worldwide shortage of freshwater has led to an increased use of treated wastewater to irrigate crops.

"Israel is a pioneer and world leader in reuse of reclaimed wastewater in the agriculture sector, providing an excellent platform to conduct such a unique study," said research co-author Professor Benny Chefetz from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University and the Director of the Hebrew University Center of Excellence in Agriculture and Environmental Health. The study is the first to directly address exposure to such pharmaceutical contaminants in healthy humans.

Thirty-four individuals, men and women, were divided into two groups for the study. During the first week, the first group was given vegetables that were watered with reclaimed water. During the second week, they were given vegetables that had been irrigated with freshwater. The second group was given products in the reverse order.

Throughout the study, the research participants consumed vegetables according to their normal diet and drank bottled water.

“Treated wastewater-irrigated produce exhibited substantially higher carbamazepine levels than fresh water-irrigated produce," said Professor Ora Paltiel, director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community medicine, who led the research.

"It is evident that those who consume produce grown in soil irrigated with treated wastewater increase their exposure to the drug. Though the levels detected were much lower than in patients who consume the drug, it is important to assess the exposure in commercially available produce.”

FruitNews article (Russian):

Source: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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