Industrial and municipal effluents are important sources of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) discharged into the aquatic environment. This study investigated the endocrine potency of wastewater and the cleaning efficiency of two typical urban Danish sewage treatment plants (STPs), using chemical analysis and a battery of bioassays. Influent samples, collected at the first STP grate, and effluent samples, collected after the sewage treatment, were extracted using solid phase extraction. Extracts were analyzed for the content of a range of industrial chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties: phthalate metabolites, parabens, industrial phenols, ultraviolet screens, and natural and synthetic steroid estrogens. The endocrine disrupting bioactivity and toxicity of the extracts were analyzed in cell culture assay for the potency to affect the function of the estrogen, androgen, aryl hydrocarbon, and thyroid receptors as well as the steroid hormone synthesis. The early-life stage (ELS) development was tested in a marine copepod. The concentrations of all analyzed chemicals were reduced in effluents compared with influents, and for some to below the detection limit. Influent as well as effluent samples from both STPs were found to interact with all four receptors and to interfere with the steroid hormone synthesis showing the presence of measured EDCs. Both influent samples and one of the effluent samples inhibited the development of the copepod Acartia tonsa. In conclusion, the presence of EDCs was reduced in the STPs but not eliminated, as verified by the applied bioassays that all responded to the extracts of effluent samples. Our data suggest that the wastewater treatment processes are not efficient enough to prevent contamination of environmental surface waters. © 2010 SETAC.
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
- Hormone/dioxin activity
- Wastewater treatment