Research team

Systemic Physiological and Ecotoxicological Research (SPHERE)

Expertise

environmental physical chemistry, electrochemistry, nanoparticle reactivity, measurement and modelling of dynamic chemical speciation, bioavailability and bioaccumulation

Towards ecological risk assessment of nanoplastics: dynamic considerations. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Plastic particles are everywhere in the environment and there is concern about the adverse effects they may have on organisms, and subsequently on ecosystems. Much global attention has been directed towards so-called microplastics, i.e. plastic particles with dimensions in the millimeter to micrometer range. Microplastics slowly degrade in the environment, by physical and chemical processes, into smaller and smaller entities, eventually reaching the nano-size domain. Due to difficulties in sampling and characterisation, almost nothing is known about the amounts and behaviour of extremely small plastic particles with dimensions on the order of nanometers, i.e. nanoplastics. Our project addresses this knowledge gap. We will measure and model the chemical reactivity, biouptake, and bioaccumulation of nanoplastics and their adverse effects on aquatic organisms. The results will provide fundamental information which enable robust risk assessment strategies to be developed that inform environmental policies.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Novel approaches for the estimation of the use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs by wastewater analysis. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

The present project aims at developing innovative analytical and sampling approaches to estimate the (ab)use of illicit drugs and psychoactive pharmaceuticals, e.g. antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and opioids in the general population. The analysis of human excretion products of substance use in wastewater has the unique properties to deliver such data. The overarching objective is to validate innovative active-passive sampling (APS) and detection strategies for biomarkers of illicit drugs and psychoactive pharmaceuticals to be used for the long-term monitoring of substance use in communities. The hypothesis to be tested is if APS will provide a more convenient sampling strategy compared to daily 24-h composite sampling. We will first develop analytical assays to measure biomarkers of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and drugs in wastewater. Then we will develop APS strategies for the target analytes in influent and effluent wastewater and will investigate the advantages/limitations of the APS strategies in real-life conditions. These new sampling strategies will be compared to the conventional 24-h composite sampling. We will plan sampling campaigns in 5 Slovene and 3 Belgian cities to: estimate for the first time community-wide psychoactive substance use in the Slovene and Belgian cities; evaluate chemical removal efficiencies for the wastewater treatment plants; investigate the utility of APS for improved identification of new psychoactive substances.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)