Use of sterols and linear alkylbenzenes as molecular markers of sewage pollution in Southeast Asia

  • Margaret William Thomes
  • Vahab Vaezzadeh
  • Mohamad Pauzi Zakaria
  • Chui Wei BongEmail author
Review Article


Southeast Asia has undergone rapid developments in terms of urbanization, economic and population growth. The progress in sewerage treatment infrastructure has not kept pace with such developments. The inadequacy and inefficiency of sewerage systems has prompted the release of untreated sewage into the aquatic environment of Southeast Asia causing many waterborne illnesses since surface water is utilized for recreational, agricultural and aquaculture purposes and, above all, as a source of water intake in Southeast Asia. This paper will review the current data on molecular markers of sewage pollution including sterols and linear alkylbenzenes (LABs) in Southeast Asian aquatic environment to clarify the state of sewage pollution and the competence of sewage treatment plants (STPs) in this area. Despite the importance of sewage pollution research in the region, the number of studies using molecular markers to trace the sources of sewage pollution is limited. So far, indicators of sewage pollution have been investigated in aquatic environments of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei among Southeast Asian countries. The concentrations and diagnostic ratios of faecal sterols and LABs show the release of untreated and primary treated urban waste into water bodies of these countries. Further studies are required to fill the data gaps in Southeast Asia and come to a better understanding of the trends of sewage pollution in this part of the world.

Graphical abstract


Sterols Linear alkylbenzenes Southeast Asia Sewage pollution Sewage treatment plant Coprostanol 


Funding information

This work was financially supported by the Institution Centre of Excellence (HICoE) Phase II Fund, Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) (Grant Number: IOES-2014D) and the University of Malaya Centre of Excellence (UMCoE) (Grant Number: RU009L 2015). We highly appreciate their financial support of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019
corrected publication September/2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret William Thomes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vahab Vaezzadeh
    • 1
  • Mohamad Pauzi Zakaria
    • 1
  • Chui Wei Bong
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Ocean and Earth SciencesUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  2. 2.Institute for Advanced StudiesUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  3. 3.Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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