Assessment of the application of bioanalytical tools as surrogate measure of chemical contaminants in recycled water

Frederic Leusch, Stuart Khan, S Laingam, Erik Prochazka, Suzanne Froscio, Trang Trinh, Heather Chapman, Andrew Humpage

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    94 Citations (Scopus)


    The growing use of recycled water in large urban centres requires comprehensive public health risk assessment and management, an important aspect of which is the assessment and management of residual trace chemical substances. Bioanalytical methods such as invitro bioassays may be ideal screening tools that can detect a wide range of contaminants based on their biological effect. In this study, we applied thirteen invitro assays selected explicitly for their ability to detect molecular and cellular effects relevant to potential chemical exposure via drinking water as a means of screening for chemical contaminants from recycled water at 9 Australian water reclamation plants, in parallel to more targeted direct chemical analysis of 39 priority compounds. The selected assays provided measures of primary non-specific (cytotoxicity to various cell types), specific (inhibition of acetylcholinesterase and endocrine receptor-mediated effects) and reactive toxicity (mutagenicity and genotoxicity), as well as markers of adaptive stress response (modulation of cytokine production) and xenobiotic metabolism (liver enzyme induction). Chemical and bioassay analyses were in agreement and complementary to each other: the results show that source water (treated wastewater) contained high levels of biologically active compounds, with positive results in almost all bioassays. The quality of the product water (reclaimed water) was only marginally better after ultrafiltration or dissolved air floatation/filtration, but greatly improved after reverse osmosis often reducing biological activity to below detection limit. The bioassays were able to detect activity at concentrations below current chemical method detection limits and provided a sum measure of all biologically active compounds for that bioassay, thus providing an additional degree of confidence in water quality.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)300-315
    Number of pages16
    JournalWater Research
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


    • Bioassay
    • Invitro
    • Micropollutant
    • Water quality
    • Water reclamation plant
    • Water recycling


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