The laboratory focuses on sources, presence, distribution and effects of environmental pollutants such as chemicals, drugs, personal care products, as well as food contaminants, such as dioxins and PCBs.
Starting from environmental data, we developed methods that allow to estimate the consumption of psychoactive substances in the population through analysis of drug residues in urban wastewater.
Results are then compared with those obtained from epidemiological investigations. Studies on human nutrition are also ongoing with the aim to reduce salt consumption through diet.
Identification and study of new types of contaminants
The laboratory sustained the identification and the description of some "emerging contaminants", such as those food and environmental contaminants that are not well known and controlled. It offers its contribution in the characterization of drugs as environmental contaminants and for the first time in the identification in the environment of abused drugs. Currently, projects aimed to monitoring these and other chemical substances for personal care are ongoing, in order to define sources and concentration, to assess the risks and to reduce their environmental impact. Another project of this group studies the relationship between the antibiotic environmental pollution and the development of bacterial resistance.
Assessments of the risk associated to contaminants both for the environment and for humans
Using data coming from environmental monitoring, the laboratory carries out risk assessments. Among contaminants analyzed, those able to exert side effects on aquatic fauna, at the concentrations indeed measured, are identified. Risk assessments are also performed considering the co-exposure of organisms to the different contaminants present in the hydrographic system, thus identifying which mixtures could alter the ecosystems balance. The laboratory also carries out risk assessments in humans evaluating the exposition through food chain and drinking water consumption, considering the effects of individual contaminants as well as mixtures.
Development and new applications of wastewater epidemiology
The laboratory developed innovative methodologies to evaluate the population consumption of substances starting from the analysis of metabolic residues in urban wastewater. In addition to drugs of abuse, the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and more recently of new psychoactive substances (new drugs) is estimated. The same methodology was also used to assess the exposure of the population to food contaminants, such as pesticides and mycotoxins. New potential applications, under investigation now, are related to the use of urban wastewater analysis to assess the population status of health.
Nutrient studies as risk factors for the development of chronic diseases
This research unit have conducted studies with the aim to evaluate the possibility of reducing the consumption of salt in users meals of company canteens and to develop an APP, application on a mobile phone, able to promote the Mediterranean diet in company canteens. The environmental and nutritional risk assessment unit of this laboratory is also carrying out a study about nutrient effects on risk factors about the development of chronic diseases. To this end, systematic reviews and meta-analysis are performed to study the effects of the consumption on obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases of specific fatty acids and free sugars.
International Consensus on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.