The Great Sewage Census
From revulsion to revolution: wastewater analysis not only informs us of human health and habits, but could even help transform our approach to healthcare.
Rolf Halden |
The first thing people ask when they hear that we analyze wastewater: “Why on earth would you pick that as your subject?” And, while the question is understandable, the answer is simple: to monitor health and protect the general public.
I was not the first to hit on the idea of studying sewage; people have monitored microbes in wastewater to study epidemics as far back as the 1950s, and European researchers have measured levels of illicit drugs across multiple cities since the early 2000s. Our primary contribution to this area has been expanding the study of wastewater into a platform for evaluating matters of public health. My story, however, did not start with sewage. It started with something even less pleasant…
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