In-sewer stability of 31 human health biomarkers and suitability for wastewater-based epidemiology

Publication Name

Water Research


Monitoring urinary markers of dietary, disease, and stress by wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is a promising tool to better understand population health and wellbeing. However, common urinary biomarkers are subject to degradation in sewer systems and their fates have to be assessed before they can be used in WBE. This study investigated the stability of 31 urinary biomarkers (12 food biomarkers, 8 vitamins, 9 oxidative stress biomarkers, and 1 histamine biomarker) in a laboratory sewer sediment reactor and evaluated their suitability for WBE, considering their detectability in real wastewater and in-sewer stability. These biomarkers showed various transformation patterns, among which 16 compounds had half-lives <2 h while other 15 compounds presented moderate to high stability (2 to >500 h). Thirteen biomarkers showed potential for WBE because of their consistently measurable concentrations in untreated wastewater and sufficient in-sewer stability. Eighteen biomarkers were unsuitable due to their rapid in-sewer degradation and/or undetectable concentration levels in untreated wastewater using previous methods. Transformation rates of these biomarkers showed generally weak relationships with molecular properties but relatively higher correlations with biological activities in sewers. Overall, this study determined in-sewer stability of 31 health-related biomarkers through laboratory experiments, providing new findings to WBE for population health assessment.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access



Article Number


Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Queensland Health



Link to publisher version (DOI)