Arizona State University

Ending Deadly Global Exposures (EDGE)

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Project Summary

PROBLEM: Pollution worldwide kills 9 million people annually.SOLUTION: We help disadvantaged populations globally to measure pollution and toxic exposures in their communities inexpensively by applying ‘personal diagnostics’ to composited community wastewater. Resulting population-health data will pinpoint environmental injustices commanding action. Industry, policy-makers, and decision-makers receive actionable information for reducing hazards in the global supply chain.CHANGE: Vulnerable populations worldwide now are empowered to fight and avoid pollution-induced diseases. Pollution sources in communities are identified, isolated and removed. Industry uses actionable data to produce safer consumer goods. Global communities monitor in real-time how policy, industry, government and community interventions reduce toxicants in their bodies and improve their health. Within 5 years, billions of people participate and benefit. Economists calculate the return-on-investment of avoiding millions of tons of pollutants in the supply chain, of saving lives. Resulting data drive a worldwide adoption of this transformative approach, making it permanent and self-sustaining.

Problem Statement

People’s toxic exposures today are unacceptable: excessive, avoidable and inequitable. Population health in the U.S. is poor and life expectancy flat or declining. Billions are spent on symptoms, neglecting root causes of human suffering. Pollution claims more than 9 million lives globally each year, three times more than AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined [1]. Disproportionately affecting the poor, pollution causes a particularly great burden on families without healthcare, children, and occupants of low-income housing. Accurate, real-time data are lacking to successfully pinpoint health hazards, implement interventions, and measure their short- and long-term success.Our LEVERAGE POINT. We apply ‘personal diagnostics’ on composited biospecimens from whole populations, thereby making population health assessments affordable and health management practicable. Pollution sources largely are unknown in vulnerable at-risk communities, leading to avoidable population-wide exposure, disease and death. When exact pollution sources are known, exposure becomes preventable. Our innovative approach to health protection emphasizes prevention, scalability, equality and inclusion of all members of society. EDGE will identify and control pollution hazards, including bioagents, before they escalate into epidemics and pandemics. EDGE, a global public health monitoring and pollution prevention system, will help to reduce the overwhelming burden of healthcare costs, freeing up limited resources to battle diseases considered unpreventable. Similar to drinking water disinfection and effective wastewater treatment, EDGE is an engineering intervention that protects global populations, creating a healthier, more equitable future. Real-time metrics are tracking reductions in global toxic exposures and millions of tons of toxins kept out of the supply chain.

Solution Overview

We reduce global pollution and exposures in at-risk communities. We operate inexpensively worldwide wherever sewage flows in a sewer, latrine or urban stream. We apply personal diagnostics to community wastewater of thousands of people to measure population health inexpensively. About 1/3 of the global population is connected to sewer systems, while a large portion have simpler latrines that can also be monitored. Absent of sewage infrastructure, we investigate community health risks by monitoring river water entering and exiting urban settlements. Our data provide real-time information on locations of unusually high toxicant levels and exposures, revealed by human metabolites of ingested toxins. Disease and health status are revealed by characteristic biomarkers. By analyzing human waste collected over 24h, we establish daily exposures for populations large and small.In contaminated communities, we map hazards at the neighborhood level, as done for Tempe, AZ. This helps to identify sources of high toxic exposures (e.g., Flint, MI; Native American communities; electronic waste handlers) or disease agents (e.g., antibiotic resistance genes from a slaughterhouse or a virual epidemics).Identification of sources emitting toxics then guides strategies to seal off and remove hazards. Simultaneously, we turn to the supply chain and eliminate pollutants from the manufacturing process through education, policy intervention and industry partnerships.We monitor success of intervention by tracking reductions in toxic exposures and hazards avoided in the supply chain. Using this method, we discovered antimicrobials as U.S. pollutants and got them banned from over 2,000 consumer products. We measure viruses across the U.S.

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Project Funders

  • Virgina G. Piper Charitable Trust 2012 - 2017
  • JPB Foundation 2015 - 2021
  • NIH - National Library of Medicine 2019 - 2023

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