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Foon Yin Lai

Foon Yin Lai
My research is in the field of environmental and analytical chemistry, with interests in studying and mining information on emerging chemical and microbial contaminants in domestic wastewaters and related recipient environments to improve our knowledge on environmental and population health.


I am an Associate Professor in Environmental Chemistry at the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment of SLU. My research focuses on understanding the environmental occurrence, fate and risk of emerging chemical and microbial contaminants due to wastewater reuse and discharges, with the goal of enhancing the exploitation of wastewaters as valuable resources towards sustainable (waste)water reuse. My research also focuses on the use of wastewaters to investigate drug consumption and exposure to emerging contaminants at the population level. To achieve the research aims, another focus of my research is on developing novel analytical methods and workflows for trace analysis of emerging chemical contaminants in different environmental matrices using liquid-chromatograph coupled with low- and high-resolution mass spectrometry, including LC-MS/MS, LC-QTOF-MS and LC-Orbitrap-MS.

My research activities focus on:  

§ Understanding the environmental spread of antibiotic resistance and other emerging contaminants due to wastewater discharges and wastewater reuse (direct and indirect reuse);

§ Studying the presence of emerging contaminants (e.g., illicit/licit drugs, (bio)transformation products, antibiotics, antiviral drugs, antibiotic resistance genes, etc.) in recipient environments and freshwater resources for risk assessment;  

§ Discovery of chemicals inducing antimicrobial resistance in aquatic environments; 

§ Mining chemical information in urban wastewaters to estimate population-wide consumption of drugs and exposure to emerging contaminants (known as wastewater-based epidemiology);

§ Development and validation of (bio)analytical strategies for identification and quantification of emerging chemical contaminants in the environment.


Current projects

§ Stopping spreads of antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotics from on-site sewage facilities to the groundwater (STOP-ARG), 2019, FORMAS - Main applicant.

§ Impact of transformation products of antimicrobial chemicals on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in aquatic environments, 2020, Swedish Research Council - Main applicant. 

§ Early detection of organic micropollutants in aquatic ecosystems, Foundation Oscar och Lili Lamms Mine - Co-applicant (main applicant Lutz Ahrens).


Research supervision (PhD and licentiate students)

PhD student (main supervisor): Valentina Ugolini (2021-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU. 

PhD student (co-supervisor): Winnie Nasazzi (2019-present), Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU.

Licentiate student (co-supervisor): Natnael Girma (2020-present), Department of Energy and Technology, SLU.


10/2020 - Associate Professor (Docent) in Environmental Chemistry, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences (NJ), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden.

05/2014 - Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Forensic Chemistry, Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS), The University of Queensland, Australia. 

08/2009 - Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Environmental Chemistry, Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. 

08/2007 - Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry (First Class Honours), Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. 


Selected publications

Selected peer-reviewed articles (full list see Scopus author ID:57200819953)

1.    Golovko O., Örn S., Sörengård M., Frieberg K., Nassazzi W., Lai F.Y., Ahrens L. Occurrence and removal of chemicals of emerging concern in wastewater treatment plants and their impact on receiving water systems. Science of the Total Environment, 2021, 754: 142122.      

2.    González-Mariño I., Baz-Lomba J.A., Alygizakis N.A., Andrés-Costa M.J., Bade R., Barron L.P., Been F., Berset J.D., Bijlsma L., Bodík I., Brenner A., Brock A.L., Burgard D.A., Castrignanò E., Christophoridis C.E., Covaci A., de Voogt P., Devault D.A., Dias M.J., Emke E., Fatta-Kassinos D., Fedorova G., Fytianos K., Gerber C., Grabic R., Grüner S., Gunnar T., Hapeshi E., Heath E., Helm B., Hernández F., Kankaanpaa A., Karolak S., Kasprzyk-Hordern B., Krizman-Matasic I., Lai F.Y., Lechowicz W., Lopes A., López de Alda M., López-García E., Löve A.S.C., Mastroianni N., McEneff G.L., Montes R., Munro K., Nefau T., Oberacher H., O'Brien J.W., Olafsdottir K., Picó Y., Plósz B.G., Polesel F., Postigo C., Quintana J.B., Ramin P., Reid M.J., Rice J., Rodil R., Senta I., Simões S.M., Sremacki M.M., Styszko K., Terzic S., Thomaidis N.S., Thomas K.V., Tscharke B.J., van Nuijs A.L.N., Yargeau V., Zuccato E., Castiglioni S., Ort C. Spatio-temporal assessment of illicit drug use at large scale: evidence from 7 years of international wastewater monitoring. Addiction, 2020, 115: 109-20.

3.    Gao J., Zheng Q., Lai F.Y., Gartner C., Du P., Ren Y., Li X., Wang D., Mueller J.F., Thai P.K. Using wastewater-based epidemiology to estimate consumption of alcohol and nicotine in major cities of China in 2014 and 2016. Environment International, 2020, 136: 105492 (page 1-7).  

4.    Benaglia L., Udrisard R., Bannwarth A., Gibson A., Been F., Lai F.Y., Esseiva P., Delémont O. Testing wastewater from a music festival in Switzerland to assess illicit drug use. Forensic Science International, 2020, 309: 110148 (page 1-8).  

5.    Lai F.Y., Rauert C., Gobelius L., Ahrens L. A critical review on passive sampling in air and water for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). TrAC-Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 2019, 121: 115311 (page 1-13).  

6.    Baduel C., Lai F.Y., van Nuijs A.L.N., Covaci A. Suspect and non-targeted strategies to investigate in vitro human biotransformation products of emerging environmental contaminants: the benzotriazoles. Environmental Science and Technology, 2019, 53: 10462-9. Open Access. Selected as ACS Editor’s Choice and Cover Art.  

7.    Sörengård M., Campos-Pereira H., Ullberg M., Lai F.Y., Golovko O., Ahrens L. Mass loads, source appointment, and risk estimation of organic micropollutants from hospital and municipal wastewater in recipient catchments. Chemosphere, 2019, 234: 931-41.  

8.    López-Serna R., García D., Bolado S., Jiménez J.J., Lai F.Y., Golovko O., Gago-Ferrero P., Ahrens L., Wiberg K., Muñoz R. Photobioreactors based on microalgae-bacteria and purple phototrophic bacteria consortia: A promising technology to reduce the load of veterinary drugs from piggery wastewater. Science of the Total Environment, 2019, 692: 259-66.

9.    Lundqvist J., Mandava G., Lungu-Mitea S., Lai F.Y., Ahrens L. In vitro bioanalytical evaluation of removal efficiency for bioactive chemicals in Swedish wastewater treatment plants. Scientific Report, 2019, 9: 7166 (page 1-9). Open Access.

10. O'Brien J.W., Grant S., Banks A.P.W., Bruno R., Carter S., Choi P.M., Covaci A., Crosbie N.D., Gartner C., Hall W., Jiang G., Kaserzon S., Kirkbride K.P., Lai F.Y., Mackie R., Marshall J., Ort C., Paxman C., Prichard J., Thai P., Thomas K.V., Tscharke B., Mueller J.F. A national wastewater monitoring program for a better understanding of public health: A case study using the Australian Census. Environment International, 2019, 122: 400-11. Open Access.

11. Michiels E.D.G., Vergauwen L., Lai F.Y., Town R.M., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N., van Cruchten S.J., Knapen D. Advancing the Zebrafish embryo test for endocrine disruptor screening using micro-injection: Ethinyl estradiol as a case study. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2019, 38: 533-47.

12. Vervliet P., Mortelé O., Gys C., Degreef M., Lanckmans K., Maudens K., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N., Lai F.Y. Suspect and non-target screening workflows to investigate the in vitro and in vivo metabolism of the synthetic cannabinoid 5Cl-THJ-018. Drug Testing and Analysis, 2019, 3: 479-91.  

13. Lai F.Y., Lympousi K., Been F., Benaglia L., Udrisard R., Delémont O., Esseiva P., Thomaidis N.S., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N. Levels of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) in raw wastewater as an innovative perspective for investigating population-wide exposure to third-hand smoke. Scientific Report, 2018, 8: 13254 (page 1-9). Open Access.

14. Been F., Bastiaensen M., Lai F.Y., Libousi K., Thomaidis N.S., Benaglia L., Esseiva P., Delémont O., van Nuijs A.L.N., Covaci A. Mining the chemical information on urban wastewater: monitoring human exposure to phosphorus flame retardants and plasticizers. Environmental Science and Technology, 2018, 52: 6996-7005.

15. van Nuijs A.L.N., Lai F.Y., Been F., Andres-Costa M.J., Barron L., Baz-Lomba J.A., Berset J.-D., Benaglia L., Bijlsma L., Burgard D.A., Castiglioni S., Christophoridis C., Covaci A., de Voogt P., Emke E., Fatta-Kassinos D., Fick J., Hernandez F., Gerber C., González-Mariño I., Grabic R., Gunnar T., Kannan K., Karolak S., Kasprzyk-Hordern B., Kokot Z., Krizman-Matasic I., Li A., Li X., Löve A.S.C., Lopez de Alda M., McCall A.-K., Meyer M.R., Oberacher H., O'Brien J., Quintana J.B., Reid M., Schneider S., Simoes S.S., Thomaidis N.S., Thomas K., Yargeau V., Ort C. 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.

16. Gys C., Kovačič A., Huber C., Lai F.Y., Heath E., Covaci A. Suspect and untargeted screening of bisphenol S metabolites produced by in vitro human liver metabolism. Toxicology Letters, 2018, 295: 115-23. 

17. Mortelé O., Vervliet P., Gys C., Degreef M., Cuykx M., Maudens K., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N., Lai F.Y. 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.

18. Lai F.Y., Gartner C., Hall W., Carter S., O'Brien J., Tscharke B.J., Been F., Gerber C., White J., Thai P., Bruno R., Prichard J., Kirkbride K.P., Mueller J.F. Measuring spatial and temporal trends of nicotine and alcohol consumption in Australia using wastewater-based epidemiology. Addiction, 2018, 6: 1127-36.

19. Banks A.P.W.1, Lai F.Y.1, Mueller J.F., Jiang G., Carter S., Thai P.K. 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. 1Joint first-author.

20. Lai F.Y., Been F., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N. 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.

21. Been F., Bastiaensen M., Lai F.Y., van Nuijs A.L.N., 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.

22. Lai F.Y., Wilkins C., Thai P.K., Mueller J.F. An exploratory wastewater analysis study of drug use in Auckland, New Zealand. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2017, 36:597-601.

23. Been F.1, Lai F.Y.1, Kinyua J., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N. Profiles and changes in stimulant use in Belgium in the period of 2011-2015. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 565:1011-9. 1Joint first-author.

24. McCall A.K., Bade R., Kinyua J., Lai F.Y., Thai P.K., Covaci A., Bijlsma L., van Nuijs A.L.N., Ort C. Critical review on the stability of illicit drugs in sewers and wastewater samples. Water Research, 2016, 88:933-47.

25. Cardenas M.A.R., Ali I., Lai F.Y., 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 (page 1-10). Open Access.

26. Lai F.Y., O'Brien J.W., Thai P.K., Hall W., Chan G., Bruno R., Ort C., Prichard J., Carter S., Anuj S., Kirkbride K.P., Gartner C., Humphries M., Mueller J.F. 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.

27. Lai F.Y., O'Brien J., Bruno R., Hall W., Prichard J., Kirkbride P., Gartner C., Thai P., Carter S., Lloyd B., Burns L., Mueller J.F. 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. ANZPAA NIFS Best Paper Awards.

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

29. Humphries M., Bruno R., Lai F.Y., Thai P., Holland B., O'Brien J., 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.

30. Lai F.Y., O’Brien J .W., Thai P.K., 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, doi:10.5694/mja15.01054. Open Access.

31. Thai P.K., Lai F.Y., Edirisinghe M., Hall W., Bruno R., O’Brien J.W., Prichard J., Kirkbride K.P., Mueller J.F. 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.

32. Lai F.Y., Erratico C., Kinyua J., Mueller J.F., Covaci A., van Nuijs A.L.N. Liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry for screening in vitro drug metabolism in humans: investigation on seven phenethylamine-based new psychoactive substances using a two-tiered experimental approach. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 2015, 114:255-75.

33. Lai F.Y., Anuj S., Bruno R., Carter S., Gartner C., Hall W., Kirkbride K.P., Mueller J.F., O’Brien J.W., Prichard J., Thai P.K. and Ort C. Systematic and day-to-day effects of chemical-derived population estimates on wastewater-based drug epidemiology. Environmental Science and Technology, 2015, 49:999-1008.

34. Lai F.Y., Bruno R., Leung H.W., Thai P.K., Ort C., Carter S., Thompson K., Lam P.K.S., Mueller J.F. Estimating daily and diurnal variations of illicit drug use in Hong Kong: a pilot study of using wastewater analysis in an Asian metropolitan city. Forensic Science International, 2013, 233:126-32.

35. Lai F.Y., Thai P.K., O'Brien J., Gartner C., Bruno R., Kele B., Ort C., Prichard J., Kirkbride P., Hall W., Carter S., Mueller J.F. Using quantitative wastewater analysis to measure daily usage of conventional and emerging illicit drugs at an annual music festival. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2013, 32:594-602.

36. Lai F.Y., Bruno R., Hall W., Gartner C., Ort C., Kirkbride P., Prichard J., Thai P.K., Carter S., Mueller J.F. Profiles of illicit drug use during annual key holiday and control periods in Australia: wastewater analysis in an urban, a semi-rural and a vacation area. Addiction, 2013, 108:556-65.

37. Lai F.Y., Ort C., Gartner C., Carter S., Prichard J., Kirkbride P., Bruno R., Hall W., Eaglesham G., Mueller J.F. Refining the estimation of illicit drug consumptions from wastewater analysis: co-analysis of prescription pharmaceuticals and uncertainty assessment. Water Research, 2011, 45:4437-48.