'We monitor what goes down the drain'

In 2nd episode of 'Thought Huddle' podcast, ASU researcher Rolf Halden dives into what sewage can tell us about public health

Sink drain

Rolf Halden studies the impact of dangerous chemicals on human health. More specifically, Halden, directorHalden is also a professor in the School for Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and senior sustainability scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, monitors sewage in hundreds of locations around the U.S. to measure the health of cities and their people — what he calls “urban metabolism.”

In this episode of ASU Now’s “Thought Huddle” podcast, host Mary-Charlotte Domandi explores with Halden the scale and range of toxic chemicals observed in wastewater and their impact on human health, various approaches to deal with these chemicals, and how he and his teams are working to improve public health. The episode, “Yes, We Monitor What Goes Down the Drain,” offers an in-depth, one-on-one conversation on critical environmental health issues.

“The chemical and biological information that is contained in the wastewater, as ugly as it sounds, is actually very informative,” Halden said. “It can tell us what people are doing in the city, how many people are there, what the health issues are, what types of chemicals they get exposed to, and what types of bacteria might lurk in the city that endangers the health of the people.”

Find more episodes at thoughthuddle.com.

More Science and technology


Man smiling and holding a model of the moon.

55 years of lunar exploration continued by SESE professor

On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin famously took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” when they became the first individuals to ever set foot on the moon. Fifty-five…

Older person seen from behind, seated in a wheelchair in a bedroom, looking out a window.

When skeletons hold secrets: ASU project helps identify hidden elder abuse

When the death of an older adult is considered suspicious, their body is sent to the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner. The agency is required by law to investigate deaths…

A sunset image showing a comet crossing the far sky

9 months into a 6-year journey to a far-flung asteroid, NASA's Psyche mission cruising along

These days, Lindy Elkins-Tanton is living out a Talking Heads song lyric: She’s keeping her feet on the ground and her head in the sky.Elkins-Tanton, principal investigator of the Arizona State…