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New Paper - NTA Based on Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic status and public health in Australia: A wastewater-based study

Analysis of untreated municipal wastewater is recognized as an innovative approach to assess population exposure to or consumption of various substances. Currently, there are no published wastewater-based studies investigating the relationships between catchment social, demographic, and economic characteristics with chemicals using advanced non-targeted techniques. In this study, fifteen wastewater samples covering 27% of the Australian population were collected during a population Census. The samples were analysed with a workflow employing liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry and chemometric tools for non-target analysis. Socioeconomic characteristics of catchment areas were generated using Geospatial Information Systems software. Potential correlations were explored between pseudo-mass loads of the identified compounds and socioeconomic and demographic descriptors of the wastewater catchments derived from Census data. Markers of public health (e.g., cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease, anxiety disorder and type 2 diabetes) were identified in the wastewater samples by the proposed workflow. They were positively correlated with descriptors of disadvantage in education, occupation, marital status and income, and negatively correlated with descriptors of advantage in education and occupation. In addition, markers of polypropylene glycol (PPG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG) related compounds were positively correlated with housing and occupation disadvantage. High positive correlations were found between separated and divorced people and specific drugs used to treat cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Our robust non-targeted methodology in combination with Census data can identify relationships between biomarkers of public health, human behaviour and lifestyle and socio-demographics of whole populations. Furthermore, it can identify specific areas and socioeconomic groups that may need more assistance than others for public health issues. This approach complements important public health information and enables large-scale national coverage with a relatively small number of samples.

Graphical Abstract