Quantitative microbial risk assessment applied to irrigation of salad crops with waste stabilization pond effluents

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A quantitative microbial risk assessment model for estimating infection risks arising from consuming crops eaten raw that have been irrigated with effluents from stabilization ponds was constructed. A log-normal probability distribution function was fitted to a large database from a comprehensive monitoring of an experimental pond system to account for variability in Escherichia coli concentration in irrigation water. Crop contamination levels were estimated using predictive models derived from field experiments involving the irrigation of several crops with different effluent qualities. Data on daily intake of salad crops were obtained from a national survey in Brazil. Ten thousand-trial Monte Carlo simulations were used to estimate human health risks associated with the use of wastewater for irrigating low- and high-growing crops. The use of effluents containing 103–104 E. coli per 100 ml resulted in median rotavirus infection risk of approximately 10−3 and 10−4 pppy when irrigating, respectively, low- and high-growing crops; the corresponding 95th percentile risk estimates were around 10−2 in both scenarios. Sensitivity analyses revealed that variations in effluent quality, in the assumed ratios of pathogens to E. coli, and in the reduction of pathogens between harvest and consumption had great impact upon risk estimates.

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