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Caffeine and Paraxanthine as Tracers of Anthropogenic Wastewater in Coastal Lagoons in Yucatan, Mexico

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Due to karstic bedrock geology and poor wastewater management practices, anthropogenic activities are impacting water quality in Yucatan’s aquatic systems. Specifically, raw wastewater inputs to the aquifer subsequently flow to coastal lagoons through groundwater fluxes. This study establishes the presence of anthropogenic wastewater by measuring caffeine and its metabolite, paraxanthine, in four of Yucatan’s major coastal lagoons: Celestun, Chelem, Dzilam de Bravo, and Ria Lagartos. Concentrations of caffeine ranged from non-detected (ND) to 2390 ng L−1 and paraxanthine from ND to 212 ng L−1, which correspond with pollution threats from anthropogenic wastewater inputs. The potential sources are: (1) direct in situ discharges from nearby urban settlements; and (2) contribution from submerged groundwater discharges. Overall, results indicate the potential of caffeine as an environmental tracer of anthropogenic wastewater contamination for the region.

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The authors wish to thank the reviewers for their insightful commentaries that helped improve the quality of the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by PAIP-UNAM 5000-9146. León-Aguirre kindly acknowledges the UNAM-DGAPA postdoctoral fellowship.

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Correspondence to Flor Arcega-Cabrera.

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Martínez-Casales, Y., León-Aguirre, K., Lamas-Cosío, E. et al. Caffeine and Paraxanthine as Tracers of Anthropogenic Wastewater in Coastal Lagoons in Yucatan, Mexico. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 108, 182–189 (2022).

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