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Foon Yin Lai

Foon Yin Lai
I am Associate Professor in Organic Environmental Chemistry. My research interest is to exploit the potential of influent and effluent wastewaters as a valuable source for (a) assessing population health regarding consumption of substances (e.g. illicit drugs) and exposure to environmental organic contaminants (e.g. flame retardants, carcinogenic compounds), as well as examining their spatio-temporal differences and the effectiveness of intervention strategies; (b) investigating removal efficiencies of wastewater treatment techniques; and (c) evaluating trends of chemical release to the environment and their impact on environmental health.


My research topics are directed towards

Environmental health: understanding the environmental source, fate, spread and risk of emerging organic micropollutants;

Wastewater-based epidemiology: mining the information on chemical consumption and exposure at the population level through wastewater analysis;

In vitro human metabolism: identifying human in vitro metabolites of new drugs and emerging contaminants using suspect and unknown non-target screening techniques;

Analytical chemistry: development and validation of new analytical methods for measuring emerging micropollutants in the environment using state-of-the-art instruments (gas-/liquid-chromatographs, and low-/high-resolution mass-spectrometry);

Biomonitoring: retrospective assessments of substances use and micropollutant exposure by hair analysis.


The POPs Group

Professor Karin Wiberg, leader of the POPs-group

Associate Professor (Docent) Lutz Ahrens, Senior Lecturer

Dr Anna-Karin Dahlberg, researcher 

Dr Oksana Golovko, researcher

Selected publications

Recent publications (2016-present)

23. Cappelle D, Lai FY, Covaci A, Vermassen A, Crunelle CL, Neels H, van Nuijs ALN. Assessment of ethyl sulphate in hair as a marker for alcohol consumption using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Drug Testing and Analysis, accepted on 09-May-2018.  

22. van Nuijs ALN, Lai FY, Been F, Andres-Costa MJ, Barron L, Baz-Lomba JA, et al. Multi-year inter-laboratory exercises for the analysis of illicit drugs and metabolites in wastewater: Development of a quality control system. TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 2018, 103, 34-43.

21. Mortelé O, Vervliet P, Gys C, Degreef M, Cuykx M, Maudens K, Covaci A, van Nuijs ALN, Lai FY. In vitro Phase I and Phase II metabolism of the new designer benzodiazepine cloniprazepam using liquid chromatography coupled to quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 2018, 153, 158-67.

20. Bruno R, Edirisinghe M, Hall W, Mueller JF, Lai FY, O'Brien JW, Thai PK. Association between purity of drug seizures and illicit drug loads measured in wastewater in a South East Queensland catchment over a six year period. Science of the Total Environment, 2018, 635:779-83.

19. Banks APW, Lai FY, Mueller JF, Jiang G, Carter S, Thai, PK. Potential impact of the sewer system on the applicability of alcohol and tobacco biomarkers in wastewater-based epidemiology. Drug Testing and Analysis, 2018, 10:530-8.

18. Lai FY, Been F, Covaci A, van Nuijs ALN. Novel wastewater-based epidemiology approach based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for assessing population exposure to tobacco-specific toxicants and carcinogens. Analytical Chemistry, 2017, 89: 9268-78.

17. Been F, Bastiaensen M, Lai FY, van Nuijs ALN, Covaci A. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis of biomarkers of exposure to phosphorus flame retardants in wastewater to monitor community-wide exposure. Analytical Chemistry, 2017, 89:10045-53.

16. Gracia-Lor E, Castiglioni S, Bade R, Been F, Castrignanò E, Covaci A, González-Mariño I, Hapeshi E, Kasprzyk-Hordern B, Kinyua J, Lai FY, Letzel T, Lopardo L, Meyer MR, O'Brien J, Ramin P, Rousis NI, Rydevik A, Ryu Y, Santos MM, Senta I, Thomaidis NS, Veloutsou S, Yang Z, Zuccato E, Bijlsma L. Measuring biomarkers in wastewater as a new source of epidemiological information: Current state and future perspectives. Environment International, 2017, 99:131-50.

15. Prichard J, Lai FY, van Dyken E, Thai PK, Bruno R, Hall W, Kirkbride P, Gartner C, O’Brien J, Mueller JF. Wastewater analysis of substance use: Implications for Law, Policy and Research. Journal of Law and Medicine, 2017, 24:837-49.

14. Gao J, Banks APW, Li J, Jiang G, Lai FY, Mueller JF, Thai P.K. Evaluation of in-sewer transformation of selected illicit drugs and pharmaceutical biomarkers. Science of the Total Environment, 2017, 609:1172-81.

13. Phung D, Mueller J, Lai FY, O’Brien J, Dang N, Morawska L, Thai PK. Can wastewater-based epidemiology be used to evaluate the health impact of temperature? - An exploratory study in an Australian population. Environmental Research, 2017, 156:113-9.

12. Lai FY, Wilkins C, Thai PK, Mueller JF. An exploratory wastewater analysis study of drug use in Auckland, New Zealand. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2017, 36:597-601.

11. Cardenas MAR, Ali I, Lai FY, Dawes L, Thier R, Rajapakse J. Removal of micropollutants through a biological wastewater treatment plant in a subtropical climate, Queensland-Australia. Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering, 2016, 14: 14-25. Open Access.

10. Been F, Lai FY, Kinyua J, Covaci A, van Nuijs ALN. Profiles and changes in stimulant use in Belgium in the period of 2011-2015. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 565:1011-9.

9. Lai FY, O'Brien JW, Thai PK, Hall W, Chan G, Bruno R, Ort C, Prichard J, Carter S, Anuj S, Kirkbride KP, Gartner C, Humphries M, Mueller JF. Cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine residues in wastewater: Consumption trends (2009-2015) in South East Queensland, Australia. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 568:803-9.

8. Lai FY, O'Brien J, Bruno R, Hall W, Prichard J, Kirkbride P, Gartner C, Thai P, Carter S, Lloyd B, Burns L, Mueller JF. Spatial variations in the consumption of illicit stimulant drugs across Australia: A nationwide application of wastewater-based epidemiology. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 568:810-8.

7. McCall AK, Bade R, Kinyua J, Lai FY, Thai PK, Covaci A, Bijlsma L, van Nuijs ALN, Ort C. Critical review on the stability of illicit drugs in sewers and wastewater samples. Water Research, 2016, 88:933-47.

6. Thai PK, Lai FY, Bruno R, van Dyken E, Hall W, O'Brien J, Prichard J, Mueller JF. Refining the excretion factors of methadone and codeine for wastewater analysis: Combining data from pharmacokinetic and wastewater studies. Environment International, 2016, 94:307-14.

5. Ryu Y, Barceló D, Barron LP, Bijlsma L, Castiglioni S, de Voogt P, Emkeh E, Hernández F, Lai FY, Lopes A, de Alda ML, Mastroianni N, Munro K, O’Brien J, Ort C, Plósz BG, Reid MJ, Yargeau V, Thomas KV. Comparative measurement and quantitative risk assessment of alcohol consumption through wastewater-based epidemiology: An international study in 20 cities. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 565:977-83.

4. Humphries M, Bruno R, Lai FY, Thai P, Holland B, O'Brien JW, Ort C, Mueller J. Evaluation of monitoring schemes for wastewater-based epidemiology to identify drug use trends using cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and methadone. Environmental Science and Technology, 2016, 50:4760-8.

3. Lai FY, O’Brien JW, Thai PK, Hall W, Mueller J.F. Trends in methamphetamine residues in wastewater in metropolitan and regional cities in South East Queensland, 2009-2015. The Medical Journal of Australia, 2016, 204:151-2.

2. Thai PK, Lai FY, Edirisinghe M, Hall W, Bruno R, O’Brien JW, Prichard J, Kirkbride KP, Mueller JF. Monitoring temporal changes in use of two cathinones in a large urban catchment in Queensland, Australia. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 545-6:250-5.

1. van Dyken E, Lai FY, Thai PK, Ort C, Bruno R, Hall W, Kirkbride P, Mueller JF, Prichard J. Challenges and opportunities in using wastewater analysis to measure drug use in a small prison facility. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2016, 35:138-47.