In a groundbreaking study, civil engineering researchers in the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology have discovered that certain industries may be a significant source of plant-based estrogens, called phytoestrogens, in surface water.
They also revealed that some of these phytoestrogens can be removed through standard wastewater treatment, but in some cases, the compounds remain at levels that may be damaging to fish.
Civil engineering associate professor Paige Novak and her graduate student researcher Mark Lundgren studied wastewater streams from 19 different industrial sites in Minnesota and Iowa and analyzed them for six phytoestrogens.
They found very high concentrations of these hormone-mimicking phytoestrogens -- up to 250 times higher than the level at which feminization of fish has been seen in other research -- in the wastewater discharged from eight industrial sites, including biodiesel plants, a soy milk factory, a barbecue meat processing facility and a dairy. They also detected high concentrations of phytoestrogens in the water discharged by some municipal wastewater treatment plants.
The good news is that the researchers revealed that phytoestrogens can be removed from water as it goes through standard treatment. In fact, they saw more than 90 percent removal of these compounds from the water. Unfortunately, sometimes 99 percent removal is needed to reach levels that are considered harmless to fish.
Plant-based phytoestrogens are naturally occurring but have been shown to function as hormone mimics and alter development and reproductive patterns in fish. These effects include decreased aggression, immunosuppression, and decreased testosterone production. Other estrogens that cause similar effects have been linked to population-level collapse in fish, Novak said.
"Many people have looked at human-related chemicals such as those in birth control pills as the primary source of estrogens in the water supply, but they have not looked at plant-based estrogens from a wide variety industries," Novak said. "Our research is the first study of its kind to provide a snapshot in time of what is going on in these industries. We hope that it can be used in planning new industrial sites and expansion of current sites."
Novak pointed out that some of these industrial facilities are in small towns without sophisticated wastewater treatment plants. In these locations, there is potential for impacts on fish and wildlife, she said.
"Our nation needs to do some careful planning as we rapidly expand various plant processing industries," Novak said. "We need to include good wastewater treatment into our industrial plant designs. We also need to think broadly as we look for the causes of fish feminization in various streams, rivers and lakes, as well as possible solutions."
The research findings will be published this fall in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, an international professional organization dedicated to the study, analysis and solution of environmental problems. The research was funded by the Water Environment Research Foundation and the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA).
To read the entire research report, visit the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Web site at: http://www.setacjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1897%2F09-029.1
Patty Mattern | EurekAlert!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2018 | Information Technology