An analysis of the actual WHO recommendations to develop standards for the safe reuse of wastewater, excreta or sludge in agriculture using a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) is presented. The proposed values are defined using a risk-based model for Ascaris lumbricoides infection to assess the human risks associated with exposure to this pathogen from crops irrigated with polluted water, or from crops grown in biosolid-enriched soil. From the results it becomes evident that, with regard to helminth eggs, the WHO guidelines for wastewater reuse in agriculture seem more stringent than are needed in developing countries, while for the reuse of sludge they appear to be the opposite. Although more information is needed to confirm this conclusion, which was derived from a single piece of research, at the very least a more cautious approach is recommended when evaluating excreta or sludge for agricultural purposes in developing countries. Additionally, this work shows that the application of some barriers, other than wastewater and sludge treatment as suggested by WHO, can play an important role in controlling risks.
Keywords: agriculture, developing countries, helminth eggs, QMRA, reuse, wastewater