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Tempe Partners With ASU To Detect Drugs In Wastewater

The Tempe City Council has partnered with Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute to map drug use by studying human waste.

Each party will contribute $35,000 to the project.

Everything – drugs included – sooner or later travels the sewers.

So Tempe and ASU plan to study wastewater as part of a public health effort to identify substance abuse hotspots and evaluate efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions.

ASU public health engineer Rolf Halden said experts know the official prescription rate but need a way to measure illicit drug use.

“The only one good way to measure that is to directly measure the drugs themselves, as well as the metabolites that are formed during consumption, in the wastewater of the city.”

The sampling will reveal data at the neighborhood level, so there's no danger that the government will trace your personal answer to nature’s call.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.