A recent University of California-Riverside study has reportedly revealed that crops grown with recycled sewage are safe to eat. The study, which examined the potential harm caused by pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) left in recycled sewage, showed that even in foods eaten raw, such as carrots, tomatoes, spinach, and bell peppers, the levels of PPCPs were “quite low” and most likely “do not pose any health concern.” The chemicals tested included the anti-bacterial triclosan, caffeine, an anticonvulsant, and a tranquilizer. Recent drought and water shortages, which have led to increased use of recycled sewage water to irrigate food crops, have apparently raised concerns about the health and environmental effects of residual PPCPs.

Acknowledging that more studies are needed to gain a full understanding of potential health risks, the scientists called the findings a “first step” toward assessing the potential human health effects of PPCPs in sewage water. They also noted that (i) other substances from PPCPs may occur in recycled water but were not included in the study; and (ii) young children, older individuals and people with chronic diseases may be more susceptible to low levels of PPCPs. See American Chemical Society News Release, September 9, 2013.