Abnormal Levels of Caffeine in Water Indicate Human Contamination (SD)

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Drew Wilson, Nov 26, 2011.

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  1. Drew Wilson

    Drew Wilson AKA IceCube Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    Researchers led by Prof. Sébastien Sauvé of the University of Montreal's Department of Chemistry have discovered that traces of caffeine are a useful indicator of the contamination of our water by sewers. "E coli bacteria is commonly used to evaluate and regulate the levels of fecal pollution of our water from storm water discharge, but because storm sewers systems collect surface runoff, non-human sources can contribute significantly to the levels that are observed," Sauvé explained.

    "Our study has determined that there is a strong correlation between the levels of caffeine in water and the level of bacteria, and that chemists can therefore use caffeine levels as an indicator of pollution due to sewerage systems."

    The researchers took water samples from streams, brooks and storm sewer outfall pipes that collect storm waters across the Island of Montreal, and analyzed them for caffeine, fecal coliforms, and a third suspected indicator, carbamazepine. Shockingly, all the samples contained various concentrations of these contaminants, which would suggest that contamination is widespread in urban environments. Carbamazepine is an anti-seizure drug which is also increasingly used for various psychiatric treatments, and the researchers thought it might be a useful indicator because it degrades very slowly. However, unlike with caffeine, no correlation was found.

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