In the study entitled ‘Wastewater-based tracing of doping use by the general population and amateur athletes’, KWR researchers have revealed that amateur athletes use the highly dangerous weight-loss agent 2,4-dinitrophenol (the ‘fat burner’ or DNP) in sport events. Through the chemical analysis of wastewater, KWR investigators Ana Causanilles, Pim de Voogt and Erik Emke have shown that 2,4-dinitrophenol loads increased by a factor of between 10 to 100 during the events monitored.
The study, performed by KWR and the Anti-Doping Authority of the Netherlands, was sponsored by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA). In the UK, recent more traditional research using questionnaires showed that the use of so-called IPEDs (Image Performance Enhancing Drugs) is widespread. Wastewater-based epidemiology has – once again – proven to be an excellent tool to support the outcome of such research with quantitative figures.
The chemical analysis of sewer water is rapidly developing into a discipline that can analyse, in near-real-time, the trends in the use of drugs and other substances by citizens. This is why Pim de Voogt refers to this wastewater-based epidemiology as a ‘societal mirror’. By sampling the influent of a sewage treatment plant, the researchers are able to calculate, on the basis of the concentration of drugs or their conversion products that end up in urine and thus in sewage water, the total ‘load’ of drugs in a city. Load is a measure of the number of milligrams of a drug transported to the sewage treatment plant per day per 1000 inhabitants.