New psychoactive substances have become increasingly popular across the globe in recent years, which may cause certain public health issues. In this work, sewage-based epidemiology was applied to examine the use of two synthetic cathinones, mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and three piperazines, benzylpiperazine (BZP), trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP), and 1-(3-Chlorophenyl)piperazine (mCPP), across China. Influent wastewater samples were collected from 36 sewage treatment plants (STPs) in 18 major cities that cover all the geographic regions of the country. Effluent samples were also collected from selected STPs to determine removal rates. Mephedrone, TFMPP, and mCPP were below detection limits in all the wastewater samples collected, indicating negligible use of these substances in China. MDPV was detected in wastewater at 13 STPs. However, its loads were < 1 mg/1000 inh/d at most of these STPs, indicating low use of this substance. BZP was detected at all the STPs examined, with loads typically falling within the range of 3–10 mg/1000 inh/d. No clear geographic pattern in BZP occurrence in wastewater was identified. Since BZP in wastewater may also come from its legal sources, whether widespread occurrence of BZP means widespread abuse is yet to be confirmed. Apparent removal of MDPV by wastewater treatment was low (< 25%), whereas removal of BZP was nearly complete (typically > 95%).
Gao, T., Du, P., Xu, Z., & Li, X. (2017). Occurrence of new psychoactive substances in wastewater of major Chinese cities. Science of the Total Environment, 575, 963–969. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.152