The Hebrew University of Jerusalem , Israel

Since 2001, Dr. Benny Chefetz has been a faculty member at the Department of Soil and Water Sciences at the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ...

... As of 2011 he is acting as the Director of the Hebrew University Center of Excellence in Agriculture and Environmental Health. Since October 2017, Prof. Chefetz serves the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The research group headed by Prof. Chefetz aims at elucidating the fate and processes of organic pollutants occurring in water, reclaimed wastewater, soils and sediments. An overarching goal is to elucidate physical, chemical and biological processes that influence the behavior of organic pollutants in the agricultural environment. Special interests are: (1) Pharmaceutical compounds in reclaimed wastewater-soil-plant-human continuum; (2) Sorption-desorption behavior of xenobiotics in soils and sediments; (3) Nano particles in the agro-environment: fate and processes; (4) Nature and reactivity of dissolved organic matter in soils.



Human exposure to wastewater-derived pharmaceuticals: New Data from a Clinical Trial

Benny Chefetz1,2,*, Naama Golan2, Michael Schapira2, Vered Mordehay1, Orly Manor2,3, and Ora Paltiel2,3

1 Department of Soil and Water Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

2 The Hebrew University Center of Excellence in Agriculture and Environmental Health

3 Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Hadassah-Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Fresh water scarcity has led to increased use of treated wastewater as an alternative source for crop irrigation. Concerns have been raised regarding pharmaceutical exposure via treated wastewater (Goldstein et al., 2014; Malchi et al., 2014; Paz et al., 2016). In our work we demonstrated that active pharmaceutical are introduced to arable land via irrigation water. Moreover we showed that some pharmaceuticals can be taken up and accumulate in edible parts of plants. In a randomized controlled trial (Paltiel et al., 2016) we demonstrate that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine. We also report that the carbamazepine metabolite pattern at this low exposure level differed from that observed at therapeutic doses. This "proof of concept" study demonstrates that human exposure to xenobiotics occurs through ingestion of reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce, providing real world data which could guide risk assessments and policy design to ensure the safe use of wastewater for crop irrigation.

Based on these findings, we expanded the work by measuring urine carbamazepine levels in specific populations that may show sensitivity to environmental exposure to pharmaceuticals via ingestion of wastewater-irrigated produce. We aimed at measuring the exposure level of healthy volunteers eating their usual diet to carbamazepine and assess inter-individual differences based on age, pregnancy, and type of diet, as well as other baseline parameters such as sex, medication use, body mass index and smoking.

New data about exposure level between the groups and the relationship based on baseline parameters will be presented.


Goldstein, M., Shenker, M. &Chefetz, B. (2014). Insights into the uptake processes of wastewater-borne pharmaceuticals by vegetables. Environmental Science & Technology 48(10): 5593-5600.

Malchi, T., Maor, Y., Tadmor, G., Shenker, M. &Chefetz, B. (2014). Irrigation of root vegetables with treated wastewater: Evaluating uptake of pharmaceuticals and the associated human health risks. Environmental Science & Technology 48(16): 9325-9333.

Paltiel, O., Fedorova, G., Tadmor, G., Kleinstern, G., Maor, Y. &Chefetz, B. (2016). Human exposure to wastewater-derived pharmaceuticals in fresh produce: A randomized controlled trial focusing on carbamazepine. Environmental Science & Technology 50(8): 4476-4482.

Paz, A., Tadmor, G., Malchi, T., Blotevogel, J., Borch, T., Polubesova, T. &Chefetz, B. (2016). Fate of carbamazepine, its metabolites, and lamotrigine in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater: Sorption, leaching and plant uptake. Chemosphere 160: 22-29.