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!
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences