Increasing impact of estrogen pollution in waters and endocrine disruption in fish

Increasing impact of oestrogen pollution through climate change and population growth

Oestrogens are ‘female’ hormones that can enter the aquatic environment after excretion by humans and animals, causing ‘feminisation’ of male fish. This study carried out a risk assessment for oestrogen-like endocrine disruption in the UK in the 2050s, based on likely changes to the human population, river flows and temperature. The authors found that risk is likely to increase under future conditions and recommend further research to assess whether improving sewage treatment could reduce oestrogen pollution.


Impact of climate change and population growth on a risk assessment for endocrine disruption in fish due to steroid estrogens in England and Wales, ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2014.11.017, February 2015.

In England and Wales, steroid estrogens: estrone, estradiol and ethinylestradiol have previously been identified as the main chemicals causing endocrine disruption in male fish. A national risk assessment is already available for intersex in fish arising from estrogens under current flow conditions.

This study presents, to our knowledge, the first set of national catchment-based risk assessments for steroid estrogen under future scenarios. The river flows and temperatures were perturbed using three climate change scenarios (ranging from relatively dry to wet). The effects of demographic changes on estrogen consumption and human population served by sewage treatment works were also included.

Compared to the current situation, the results indicated increased future risk:the percentage of high risk category sites, where endocrine disruption is more likely to occur, increased. These increases were mainly caused by changes in human population. This study provides regulators with valuable information to prepare for this potential increased risk.

How do You like your Shrimps? With Antibiotics, Chlorine, or Diesel?

Shrimp: buyer beware, by Martha Rosenberg

Martha Rosenberg, writing for the Organic Consumers Association, tells us what shrimp production is like today. When it comes to eating shrimp, it’s buyer beware…

” … In Bangladesh, … the “chemical soup” that commercial shrimp are grown in threatens local workers, and pollutes their water bodies and marine life with toxic effluent. When the ponds become so polluted that even antibiotics no longer work, the operators pack up and move on to a new location… ”

” Commercial shrimp production in India, the second largest exporter of shrimp to the U.S, begins with a long list of chemicals, including urea, superphosphate and diesel. … Fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone (linked to Parkinson’s Disease), and the use of Borax and sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxin), are rampant in India’s shrimp production. ”

” … formalin is approved for use in U.S. shrimp production. Formalin is a parasiticide which contains formaldehyde gas. It has no mandatory withdrawal time or legal residue tolerance. Other chemicals … are “unapproved” but widely used “off-label”. “

Read Contemporary Shrimp Production Poses Risks to Consumers and the Environment, organicconsumers, by Martha Rosenberg, August 10, 2016.

Pharmaceuticals in the Environment – the Global Perspective

Occurrence, effects, and potential cooperative action under SAICM
Pharmaceuticals in the environment – the global perspective

About 4,000 active pharmaceutical ingredients are being administered worldwide in prescription medicines, over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, and veterinary drugs.

Their active ingredients comprise a variety of synthetic chemicals produced by pharmaceutical companies in both the industrialized and the developing world at a rate of 100,000 tons per year.

While pharmaceuticals are stringently regulated for efficacy and patient safety, the adverse side effects they may have in the natural environment have not yet been sufficiently studied and are not covered by an international agreement or arrangement.


  1. Emission pathways of pharmaceuticals entering the environment
  2. Monitoring pharmaceutical residues in the environment
  3. Global occurrence in the environment
  4. Effects in the environment
  5. Current knowledge of pharmaceuticals in drinking water
  6. Potential cooperative action


  • Download the PDF Pharmaceuticals in the environment – the global perspective, Occurrence, effects, and potential cooperative action under SAICM.
  • Also available in French and Spanish languages.

Degradation of personal care products in wastewater treatment plants

Biodegradation rates vary widely between wastewater treatment plants

The non-restricted production and use of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) has led to their presence in effluents from treatment plants, which can pose a threat to aquatic organisms downstream. This study analysed the breakdown of six common chemicals in four Danish treatment plants. The findings shed new light on the factors affecting removal of PPCPs from waste, showing that the composition of waste is more important than the design of the treatment plant.


Degradation of PPCPs in activated sludge from different WWTPs in Denmark, Springer, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 2073-2080, December 2015.

Pharmaceuticals and Personal care products (PPCPs) are often found in effluents from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) due to insufficient removal during wastewater treatment processes.

To understand the factors affecting the removal of PPCPs in classical activated sludge WWTPs, the present study was performed to assess the removal of frequently occurring pharmaceuticals (Naproxen, Fenoprofen, Ketoprofen, Dichlofenac, Carbamazepine) and the biocide Triclosan in activated sludge from four different Danish WWTPs. The respective degradation constants were compared to operational parameters previous shown to be of importance for degradation of micropollutants such as biomass concentration, and sludge retention time (SRT).

The most rapid degradation, was observed for NSAID pharmaceuticals (55-90% for Fenoprofen, 77-94% for Ketoprofen and 46-90% for Naproxen), followed by Triclosan (61-91%), while Dichlofenac and Carbamazepine were found to be persistent in the systems. Degradation rate constants were calculated as 0.0026-0.0407 for NSAID pharmaceuticals and 0.0022-0.0065 for triclosan. No relationships were observed between degradation rates and biomass concentrations in the diverse sludges. However, for the investigated PPCPs, the optimal SRT was within 14-20 days (for these values degradation of these PPCPs was the most efficient).

Though all of these parameters influence the degradation rate, none of them seems to be overall decisive. These observations indicate that the biological composition of the sludge is more important than the design parameters of the respective treatment plant.

Sublethal effect of agronomical surfactants on the spider Pardosa agrestis

Pesticide additives can weaken the predatory activity of a potential biological control agent

  • Spiders are abundant predators within agricultural ecosystems and can significantly reduce pest populations, bringing significant economic benefits.
  • Surfactants are a common component of pesticides.

Two chemicals used as co-formulants in pesticides have been found to reduce the predatory behaviour of the wolf spider Pardosa agrestis, an insect predator found within agricultural landscapes. A third co-formulant was found not to affect the predatory behaviour of females and increased the prey behaviour of male spiders. This is the first time that pesticide additives have been shown to alter the predatory activity of a potential biological control agent of crop pests.


Sublethal effect of agronomical surfactants on the spider Pardosa agrestis, ScienceDirect, Volume 213, Pages 84–89, June 2016.

Wolf Spider by Thomas.

In addition to their active ingredients, pesticides contain also additives – surfactants. Use of surfactants has been increasing over the past decade, but their effects on non-target organisms, especially natural enemies of pests, have been studied only very rarely.

The effect of three common agrochemical surfactants on the foraging behavior of the wolf spider Pardosa agrestis was studied in the laboratory. Differences in short-term, long-term, and overall cumulative predatory activities were investigated.

We found that surfactant treatment significantly affected short-term predatory activity but had no effect on long-term predatory activity. The surfactants also significantly influenced the cumulative number of killed prey. We also found the sex-specific increase in cumulative kills after surfactants treatment.

This is the first study showing that pesticide additives have a sublethal effect that can weaken the predatory activity of a potential biological control agent. More studies on the effects of surfactants are needed to understand how they affect beneficial organisms in agroecosystems.

Human exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and male fertility

Are EDCs responsible for downward trends in male fertility?

A growing body of evidence suggests that endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) are contributing to declines in fertility. This case-control study found that EDCs were associated with changes to sex hormones and risk of subfertility in men. The researchers say environmental levels of these chemicals should be reduced to protect male fertility.


Human exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and fertility: A case–control study in male subfertility patients, ScienceDirect, Environment International, Volume 84, November 2015, Pages 154–160.
Couple by kusmierz.

Dioxins, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, brominated flame retardants, bisphenol A, triclosan, perfluorinated compounds and phthalates are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The aim of our study was to investigate whether higher exposure to EDCs is associated with increased subfertility in men.

We measured biomarkers of exposure in 163 men, recruited through four fertility clinics. According to WHO guidelines, we used a total motility count (TMC) of 20 million as cut-off value. We assigned patients to the case group when two semen samples – collected at least one week apart – had a TMC < 20 and to the control group when both samples had a TMC ≥ 20. To estimate the risk of subfertility and alteration in sex hormone concentrations we used multivariable-adjusted analysis, using logistic and linear regressions, respectively.

For an IQR increase in serum oxychlordane, the odds ratio for subfertility was 1.98 (95% CI: 1.07; 3.69). Furthermore, men with serum levels of BDE209 above the quantification limit had an odds of 7.22 (1.03; 50.6) for subfertility compared with those having values below the LOQ. Urinary levels of phthalates and triclosan were negatively associated with inhibin B and positively with LH. Urinary bisphenol A correlated negatively with testosterone levels.

Our study in men showed that internal body concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals are associated with an increased risk of subfertility together with alterations in hormone levels. The results emphasize the importance to reduce chemicals in the environment in order to safeguard male fertility.

The DES example

Environmental quality index low measure linked to preterm birth

Poor air quality associated with increased risk of preterm birth

Research using the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) linked increased risk of preterm birth with poor air quality, but not with overall low environmental quality. The study is one of the first to explore the relationship between preterm birth and environmental quality across a range of different environmental domains (including water, air, land, built environment and sociodemographic aspects).


The associations between environmental quality and preterm birth in the United States, 2000–2005: a cross-sectional analysis, BiomedCentral, 9 June 2015.
Salt Lake City by Augie Ray.

Many environmental factors have been independently associated with preterm birth (PTB). However, exposure is not isolated to a single environmental factor, but rather to many positive and negative factors that co-occur. The environmental quality index (EQI), a measure of cumulative environmental exposure across all US counties from 2000—2005, was used to investigate associations between ambient environment and PTB.

With 2000–2005 birth data from the National Center for Health Statistics for the United States (n = 24,483,348), we estimated the association between increasing quintiles of the EQI and county-level and individual-level PTB; we also considered environmental domain-specific (air, water, land, sociodemographic and built environment) and urban–rural stratifications.

Effect estimates for the relationship between environmental quality and PTB varied by domain and by urban–rural strata but were consistent across county- and individual-level analyses. The county-level prevalence difference (PD (95 % confidence interval) for the non-stratified EQI comparing the highest quintile (poorest environmental quality) to the lowest quintile (best environmental quality) was −0.0166 (−0.0198, −0.0134). The air and sociodemographic domains had the strongest associations with PTB; PDs were 0.0196 (0.0162, 0.0229) and −0.0262 (−0.0300, −0.0224) for the air and sociodemographic domain indices, respectively. Within the most urban strata, the PD for the sociodemographic domain index was 0.0256 (0.0205, 0.0307). Odds ratios (OR) for the individual-level analysis were congruent with PDs.

We observed both strong positive and negative associations between measures of broad environmental quality and preterm birth. Associations differed by rural–urban stratum and by the five environmental domains. Our study demonstrates the use of a large scale composite environment exposure metric with preterm birth, an important indicator of population health and shows potential for future research.

Biomonitoring of human exposures to chlorinated derivatives and structural analogs of bisphenol A

BPS, BPF, BPB and chlorinated derivatives likely to have similar effects than BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is widespread in the environment. Researchers reviewed and critically discussed the sources and routes of human exposure to chlorinated derivatives (ClxBPA) and alternatives to BPA (BPF, BPS), as well as their metabolism, toxicity and concentrations in human tissues. The researchers suggest BPA alternatives and derivatives may have similar effects, and provide directions for future research.


Biomonitoring of human exposures to chlorinated derivatives and structural analogs of bisphenol A, ScienceDirect, Environmental Pollution, Volume 85, December 2015, Pages 352–379.

The high reactivity of bisphenol A (BPA) with disinfectant chlorine is evident in the instantaneous formation of chlorinated BPA derivatives (ClxBPA) in various environmental media that show increased estrogen-activity when compared with that of BPA.

The documented health risks associated with BPA exposures have led to the gradual market entry of BPA structural analogs, such as bisphenol S (BPS), bisphenol F (BPF), bisphenol B (BPB), etc. A suite of exposure sources to ClxBPA and BPA analogs in the domestic environment is anticipated to drive the nature and range of halogenated BPA derivatives that can form when residual BPA comes in contact with disinfectant in tap water and/or consumer products.

The primary objective of this review was to survey all available studies reporting biomonitoring protocols of ClxBPA and structural BPA analogs (BPS, BPF, BPB, etc.) in human matrices. Focus was paid on describing the analytical methodologies practiced for the analysis of ClxBPA and BPA analogs using hyphenated chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques, because current methodologies for human matrices are complex. During the last decade, an increasing number of ecotoxicological, cell-culture and animal-based and human studies dealing with ClxBPA exposure sources and routes of exposure, metabolism and toxicity have been published. Up to date findings indicated the association of ClxBPA with metabolic conditions, such as obesity, lipid accumulation, and type 2 diabetes mellitus, particularly in in-vitro and in-vivo studies. We critically discuss the limitations, research needs and future opportunities linked with the inclusion of ClxBPA and BPA analogs into exposure assessment protocols of relevant epidemiological studies.

Wastewater treatment plant discharges can promote the development of antibiotic resistance genes in streams

Occurrence and persistence of antibiotic resistance genes in river biofilms after wastewater inputs in small rivers

Widespread use of antibiotics has led to pollution of waterways, potentially creating resistance among freshwater bacterial communities. A new study looked for antibiotic resistance genes in a river basin in Spain, revealing that wastewater discharges can promote the spread of antibiotic resistance in streams and small rivers.


Occurrence and persistence of antibiotic resistance genes in river biofilms after wastewater inputs in small rivers, ScienceDirect, Environmental Pollution, Volume 210, March 2016, Pages 121–128.

The extensive use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine and their subsequent release into the environment may have direct consequences for autochthonous bacterial communities, especially in freshwater ecosystems. In small streams and rivers, local inputs of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) may become important sources of organic matter, nutrients and emerging pollutants, such as antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs).

In this study, we evaluated the effect of WWTP effluents as a source of ARGs in river biofilms. The prevalence of genes conferring resistance to main antibiotic families, such as beta-lactams (blaCTX-M), fluoroquinolones (qnrS), sulfonamides (sul I), and macrolides (ermB), was determined using quantitative PCR (qPCR) in biofilm samples collected upstream and downstream WWTPs discharge points in four low-order streams. Our results showed that the WWTP effluents strongly modified the hydrology, physico-chemistry and biological characteristics of the receiving streams and favoured the persistence and spread of antibiotic resistance in microbial benthic communities. It was also shown that the magnitude of effects depended on the relative contribution of each WWTP to the receiving system. Specifically, low concentrations of ARGs were detected at sites located upstream of the WWTPs, while a significant increase of their concentrations was observed in biofilms collected downstream of the WWTP discharge points (particularly ermB and sul I genes). These findings suggest that WWTP discharges may favour the increase and spread of antibiotic resistance among streambed biofilms. The present study also showed that the presence of ARGs in biofilms was noticeable far downstream of the WWTP discharge (up to 1 km).

It is therefore reasonable to assume that biofilms may represent an ideal setting for the acquisition and spread of antibiotic resistance determinants and thus be considered suitable biological indicators of anthropogenic pollution by active pharmaceutical compounds.