Sewage contains the excreted biomarkers of endogenous human metabolism that directly reflect the exposure of and stressors placed upon an entire contributing community. The quantitative measurement of these specific biomarkers in domestic sewage allows the averaged patterns of biological and chemical indices related to lifestyle, disease and environment to be used for the assessment of community health. With SewScan these results are produced and results from specific metropolitan areas can be compared within or between countries.

A sewage treatment plant can be characterised by means of a questionnaire developed in collaboration with European partners arranged in the SCORE network. Next, a dataset of illicit drugs can be uploaded by the user, who can then compare these with data from other cities and derive temporal and spatial trends. SewScan has been tested with European data for drugs of abuse.


  • Characteristics of the investigated sewage treatment plant
  • Levels of specific biomarkers of e.g., pharmaceuticals or illicit drugs in the sewage influent
  • Assessment of community health or habits in the area connected to the sewer system
  • Comparison with other communities and countries
  • Spatial (Europe) and temporal (annual) trends


With SewScan a sewage treatment plant can be characterised by means of a questionnaire setup in collaboration with European partners arranged in the SCORE network. After filling at least the required parameters, a dataset with quantitative results can be uploaded and temporal trends are made visible. They are ready to be exported or can be compared with other communities, within countries or with specific sewage treatment plants.


The SewScan tool draws on knowledge which has been developed and published by the authors below:

  • Ort, A. L. N. van Nuijs, J.-D. Berset, L. Bijlsma, S. Castiglioni, A. Covaci, P. de Voogt, E. Emke, D. Fatta-Kassinos, P. Griffiths, F. Hernández, I. González-Mariño, R. Grabic, B. Kasprzyk-Hordern, N. Mastroianni, A. Meierjohann, T. Nefau, M. Östman, Y. Pico, I. Racamonde, M. Reid, J. Slobodnik, S. Terzic, N. Thomaidis, K. V. Thomas, Spatial differences and temporal changes in illicit drug use in Europe quantified by wastewater analysis. Addiction 2014, 109. 1338-1352, DOI: 10.1111/add.12570.
  • Castiglioni, L. Bijlsma, A. Covaci, E. Emke, F. Hernández, M. Reid, C. Ort, K. V. Thomas, A. L. N. van Nuijs, P. de Voogt, E. Zuccato, Evaluation of Uncertainties Associated with the Determination of Community Drug Use through the Measurement of Sewage Drug Biomarkers. Environmental Science & Technology 2013, 47. 1452-1460, DOI: 10.1021/es302722f.
  • V. Thomas, L. Bijlsma, S. Castiglioni, A. Covaci, E. Emke, R. Grabic, F. Hernández, S. Karolak, B. Kasprzyk-Hordern, R. H. Lindberg, M. Lopez de Alda, A. Meierjohann, C. Ort, Y. Pico, J. B. Quintana, M. Reid, J. Rieckermann, S. Terzic, A. L. N. van Nuijs, P. de Voogt, Comparing illicit drug use in 19 European cities through sewage analysis. Science of the Total Environment 2012, : 432-439. DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.06.069

Tool Expert(s)

Pim de Voogt

Pim de Voogt

Principal scientist, KWR

+31(0) 30 60 69 528